Researchers at the University of Michigan and University of California-Santa Barbara have found teens experience digital dating abuse at similar rates, but girls reported that they were more upset by these behaviors and reported more negative emotional responses.
Digital dating abuse behaviors include the use of cell phones or the internet to harass, control, pressure, or threaten a dating partner.
“Although digital dating abuse is potentially harmful for all youth, gender matters,” said Dr. Lauren Reed, the study’s lead author and an assistant project scientist at University of California-Santa Barbara.
The study, which will appear in the Journal of Adolescence, involved 703 Midwest high school students who reported the frequency of digital dating abuse, if they were upset by the “most recent” incidents, and how they responded.
Students completed the surveys between December 2013 and March 2014.
Participants reported sending and receiving at least 51 text messages per day, and spending an average of 22 hours per week using social media. Most participants reported that they text/texted their current or most recent dating partner frequently.
The survey asked teens to indicate how often they experienced problematic digital behaviors with a dating partner.
Concerns include being “pressured me to sext” (sending a sexual or naked photo), being sent a threatening message, having private information assessed without permission, and having their whereabouts and activities monitored.
Girls indicated more frequent digital sexual coercion victimization, and girls and boys reported equal rates of digital monitoring and control, and digital direct aggression.
When confronted with direct aggression, such as threats and rumor spreading, girls responded by blocking communication with their partner.
Boys responded in similar fashion when they experienced digital monitoring and control behaviors, the study showed.
Boys often treat girls as sexual objects, which contributes to the higher rates of digital sexual coercion, as boys may feel entitled to have sexual power over girls, said study co-author Dr. Richard Tolman, University of Michigan professor of social work.
Girls, on the other hand, are expected to prioritize relationships, which can lead to more jealousy and possessiveness, he said. Thus, they may be more likely to monitor boys’ activities.
Patients with coronary heart disease who experience persistent moderate to severe mental distress face a much higher risk of death, according to a new study published online in the journal Heart. But no such link was found for those experiencing persistent mild or occasional distress over the long term.
Although prior research has suggested a link between anxiety/depression and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, most of these studies were conducted soon after the event, and were based on a single assessment, say the researchers. And the definitions of chronic/persistent stress in other longer term studies have varied widely.
For the new study, the researchers looked at the association between occasional or persistent mental distress and the risk of death in 950 people (aged 31 to 74) with stable coronary heart disease. All of the participants were part of the Long Term Intervention with Pravastatin in Ischaemic Disease Trial and had had a heart attack or been admitted to hospital for unstable angina in the preceding three to 36 months.
To gauge levels of mental distress, the participants completed a validated general health questionnaire at six months, 1, 2, and 4 years after the event.
Mental distress was rated according to severity and the length of time it lasted at each of the assessments: never distressed; occasional (of any severity); persistent mild distress on three or more occasions; and persistent moderate distress on three or more occasions. The patients’ health and survival were then tracked for an average of 12 years.
During the monitoring period, 398 people died from all causes and 199 died from cardiovascular disease.
According to the questionnaire, 587 (62 percent) of participants said they had not been distressed at any of the assessments, while around one in four (27 percent) said they had experienced occasional distress of any severity. Around one in 10 (8 percent) said they had experienced persistent mild distress, and 35 people (3.7 percent) complained of persistent moderate distress.
Patients in this last group were nearly four times as likely to have died of cardiovascular disease and nearly three times as likely to have died from any cause as those who said they had not been distressed at any of the assessments.
No such associations were observed among patients who had reported persistent mild distress or those who said they had only experienced it occasionally. The findings remained true even after adjusting for other potentially influential risk factors.
Since this is an observational study, no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, say the researchers. And confining the assessments to a period of four years might have underestimated the true impact of persistent distress.
Nevertheless, the researchers say that the increase in risk of death was substantial. “These findings suggest that in patients with stable [coronary heart disease], long term mortality risk is related to the cumulative burden of psychological distress,” they wrote.
In a linked editorial, Dr. Gjin Ndrepepa of the Technical University, Munich, Germany, describes the research as an “important and elaborative study which helps to uncover the intricate relationship between psychological distress and cardiovascular disease.”
He said mental distress activates the sympathetic nervous system and boosts stress hormone levels, which, if persistent, can produce potentially harmful physiological changes, some of which may be permanent. Distress can also prompt unhealthy behaviors.
New research finds that lack of sleep does more than leave you cranky and easily irritated with your partner — it may also put you at risk for stress-related inflammation.
Investigators at Ohio State University Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research discovered the inflammation is associated with higher risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis and other diseases.
Researchers discovered if both partners receive less than seven hours of sleep the previous two nights, the couple was more likely to argue or become hostile.
Moreover, for every hour of sleep lost, the researchers noted that levels of two known inflammatory markers rose 6 percent. Couples who used unhealthy tactics in their disagreement had an even greater inflammatory response — about a 10 percent increase with each hour of less sleep.
“We know sleep problems are also linked with inflammation and many of the same chronic illnesses. So we were interested to see how sleep related to inflammation among married couples, and whether one partner’s sleep affected the other’s inflammation,” said Stephanie Wilson, Ph.D., lead researcher on the study.
Results of the study were published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.
The research team recruited 43 couples who completed two study visits. The couples provided blood samples and said how many hours they had slept the previous two nights.
Then researchers had the couples try to resolve a topic that sparks conflict in their marriage. Blood samples were taken again following the discussion.
“We found that people who slept less in the past few nights didn’t wake up with higher inflammation, but they had a greater inflammatory response to the conflict. So that tells us less sleep increased vulnerability to a stressor,” Wilson said.
“Any increase isn’t good, but a protracted increase that isn’t being addressed is where it can become a problem,” Wilson said.
“What’s concerning is both a lack of sleep and marital conflict are common in daily life. About half of our study couples had slept less than the recommended seven hours in recent nights.”
That’s higher than the current national average. The CDC reports 35 percent of Americans get less than seven hours of sleep per night.
“Part of the issue in a marriage is that sleep patterns often track together. If one person is restless, or has chronic problems, that can impact the other’s sleep. If these problems persist over time, you can get this nasty reverberation within the couple,” said Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, Ph.D., senior author and director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.
Researchers were encouraged to see that there was a protective effect if one of the partners was well-rested, or discussed conflict in a healthy way. They tended to neutralize the disagreement that might be stirred by the sleep-deprived partner.
“We would tell people that it’s important to find good ways to process the relationship and resolve conflict — and get some sleep,” Kiecolt-Glaser said.
Source: The Ohio State University
New research finds that a child’s sleep problems may make parents depressed and unsure of their parenting skills.
University of British Columbia (UBC) researchers say that the good news is you can turn the situation around.
UBC sleep expert and nursing professor Wendy Hall explains that although much is known about how poor sleep can affect a child’s children’s growth and development, maintaining parental sanity during this difficult period is a relatively under researched area.
According to Hall, “We have a fairly good idea how parental depression can negatively impact children’s development and parental attachment. But we know less about how kids’ sleep can affect their parents’ mental health. This study is one of the first to look at that connection.”
In the study, investigators recruited 253 families from British Columbia with infants who were having trouble sleeping. They then excluded parents diagnosed with or currently experiencing clinical depression.
The families were randomly assigned to two groups. The first group received sleep intervention for their child in the form of information about infant sleep and how to solve infant sleep problems, with support from public health nurses.
The second only received basic infant safety information packages. Parents’ depression scores were rated at the outset, and at six and 24 weeks after the intervention.
Investigators discovered a correlation between thoughts about their infant’s sleep and parental depression, even after making allowances for parental fatigue or poor sleep.
In other words, parents who worried that they could not manage their children’s sleep were more likely to have higher levels of depression. That was true for both mothers and fathers.
The situation improved after the intervention, notably by the 24-week mark. Once the infant sleep problem was treated, parental depression lifted significantly. There was a reduction of almost 30 percent of mothers and 20 percent of fathers reporting high depression scores.
Researchers believe the findings suggest that health care professionals should listen carefully to parents of young infants. Clinicians should look for signs of depression associated with doubts about helping infants sleep that are beyond parental fatigue or lack of sleep.
The study also highlights how sleep interventions can benefit both child and parent. That is parents should be informed that finding a way to regulate a child’s sleep can help a parent’s own state of mind and self-confidence get a boost.
Source: University of British Columbia
For parents of children born in late summer or early fall, a common dilemma is when to start the child in school. Is it best for the child to be the youngest or the oldest in their class cohort for the next 13 or so years?
New research now suggests that the youngest pupils in each school year group could be at risk of worse mental health than their older classmates.
Starting school young is an exciting concept for children and their families as many see this as an opportunity to stand out. However, starting young maybe a challenging milestone for children and their families. Some children will be nearing their fifth birthday as they enter kindergarten classes while others will be just four.
Now, in a U.K. study that investigated more than 2,000 children across 80 primary schools in Devon, researchers are sharing concerns about early introduction into the school system.
Investigators from the University of Exeter Medical School discovered children who are younger than their peers when they start school are more likely to develop poorer mental health, as rated by parents and teachers.
A higher score on a measure of poor mental health would indicate that children are more likely to experience common negative emotions such as worry and fear, they may have poorer relationships with their peers and be more likely to encounter issues with behavior and concentration.
Overall the effect was small, but researchers believe the additional stress of keeping up with older peers could prove a “tipping point” for vulnerable children, such as those with learning difficulties or who were born prematurely.
The research team was supported by the National Institute for Health Research Public Health Research Programme and the Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care South West Peninsula (NIHR PenCLAHRC).
The research, published in the journal Child Care, Health and Development, could have implications on parents’ decisions on whether to defer their child’s school entry for a school year.
The findings could also influence how teachers interact with younger children, particularly those with additional complex needs in the class, and on assessments and teaching and support structures within classrooms.
Anna Price, of the University of Exeter Medical School, was motivated to study the issue after home schooling her own April-born son, who has pre-existing learning difficulties, and was not ready to start school aged five.
She said: “Using such a large dataset was a chance to explore what’s really happening in practice for children who start school at a young age. We found that children who started younger had slightly worse well-being– however, this effect was very small and unlikely to make a difference for most.
“The challenge to well-being of being young for your school year might however be one struggle too many for children who face other challenges to their mental health. Our findings can help guide parents and teachers in making decisions that best support the child.”
The researchers also explored the impact of starting school early on the child’s happiness levels and behavior.
In contrast to previous research, they found no significant impact on either. The research paper noted that the schools in the study had strong support in place, such as small group learning, which may have helped improve happiness and behavior overall.
Professor Tamsin Ford, of the University of Exeter Medical School, oversaw the research. Ford, a practicing child psychiatrist, said: “Being relatively younger could be the tipping point for some, but certainly not all, children.
“For most it would just be something for teacher’s to be aware of but for children with other needs or who were born prematurely this difference could be significant. Awareness of this issue among teachers and educators means measures can be put in place that could help to mitigate this effect and get the best outcome for children.”
Source: University of Exeter
New research has found that when it’s uncomfortably hot, we’re less likely to be helpful or “prosocial.”
Published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, the three-part study helps to explain how and through what mechanisms temperature influences individual helping.
For part one of the study, associate professor Dr. Liuba Belkin of Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and Dr. Maryam Kouchaki, assistant professor at Northwestern University in Illinois, used data provided by a large Russian retail chain to analyze differences in individual behavior under hot versus normal temperature conditions.
Clerks working in an uncomfortably hot environment, according to the data, were 50 percent less likely to engage in prosocial behaviors, such as volunteering to help customers, listening actively and making suggestions.
“In part two of the study — a randomized online experiment — we asked a paid online panel to just recall or imagine situations where they were uncomfortably hot and then, after measuring their feelings and perceptions and a number of survey questions, asked them to help with another survey for free,” Belkin said.
“Participants weren’t even experiencing heat at the moment and we still found that, compared to the control group, the participants were more fatigued, which reduced their positive affect and, ultimately, prosocial behavior.”
Only 34 percent of the participants who were asked to recall a time when they were uncomfortably hot were willing to help with the free survey, compared to 76 percent in the control group, the researchers reported.
In part three of the study, the researchers found that even slight fluctuations in temperature changed behavior.
Belkin chose students in two sections of a college management course as subjects for a field experiment. One group sat in a lecture in a room that was uncomfortably warm, while the other group sat in an air conditioned room. She then asked the students to answer a series of questions and fill out a survey “for a non-profit organization that serves children and underprivileged individuals in the local community.”
Only 64 percent in the hotter room agreed to answer at least one question, while in the cooler room, 95 percent did so, she said.
She added that, interestingly, even those who agreed to help in the hotter room helped less, answering, on average, six questions, almost six times less than the number of questions answered by the students in the cooler room, who answered an average of 35 questions.
Source: Lehigh University
An international team of 57 scientists from 11 countries has identified the first definitive risk genes for Tourette syndrome (TS), a complex neuropsychiatric disorder.
The breakthrough came when researchers focused on a relatively new area of genomics research that involves looking at the entire genome, rather than searching for a particular gene, said Dr. Peristera Paschou, Purdue University associate biology professor.
“Most times we focus on a mutation of a single base pair, which are the building blocks of DNA, and look for a mutation. But in recent years we’ve realized that there is another type of variation of the human genome,” said Paschou.
Tourette syndrome, which affects about one in 100 people, is characterized by one or more physical tics, such as throat clearing, coughing, eye blinking, or facial movements, along with at least one involuntary phonic or verbal tic.
People with TS also are more likely to have additional neuropsychiatric disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and appear to be at greater risk for anxiety, major depression or autism spectrum disorders.
Because of the large variety of symptoms and related conditions, Tourette Syndrome is often a difficult condition to identify and track.
In recent years, however, scientists have been investigating how often short sections of genes are repeated through the entire genome, how these repetitions (called copy number variants) might vary among individuals, and whether they have an effect on health.
“These variations may involve a large part of the DNA sequence and may even include whole genes. We have only very recently begun to understand how copy number variation may relate to disease,” said Paschou.
“In the case of this research on Tourette Syndrome, we scanned the entire genome, and through physical analysis, we were able to identify where this variation lies. We rarely find variants that are associated at such a high level. This is why this is such a big breakthrough.”
Dr. Jeremiah Scharf, of the Psychiatric & Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit in the Massachusetts General Hospital Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology and the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Genomic Medicine, co-senior author of the report, says this is a significant finding.
“The challenge of recognizing that Tourette Syndrome is not a single gene disorder, and that a stringent statistical certainty is required in order to declare a gene to be significantly associated with it, has been our long-term aim,” he said.
“We believe that what sets our study apart from prior studies is that the two genes we have identified both surpassed the stringent threshold of ‘genome-wide significance,’ and so, represent the first two definitive Tourette Syndrome susceptibility genes.”
The research will help speed new and more effective treatments for Tourette’s as well as other disorders.
“Tourette Syndrome has long been considered a model disorder to study the parts of the brain that function at the intersection of our traditional concepts of neurology and psychiatry,” Scharf says.
“These first two definitive genes for Tourette Syndrome give us strong footholds in our efforts to understand the biology of this disease, and future studies of how these genes work both in health and disease may lead to discoveries that are more broadly relevant to neuropsychiatric disorders in general.”
Although this research was the largest ever conducted on Tourette Syndrome, Paschou says a much larger study is already being planned.
“We are hopeful that in the next two years we will put together a sample of 12,000 patients, which is something that those of us who work in this field could not have imagined before,” she said.
Paschou says that the success of the collaboration is due not just to the researchers, but also to the patients and their families. “It was such a great contribution for the patients and their families to participate in this study. Without them studies like this could not exist.”
The new findings are published in the journal Neuron.
Source: Purdue University
Insightful new research confirms that work stress can indeed lead to an unhealthy diet. However, investigators also discovered that a good night’s sleep can help improve healthy habits.
Michigan State (MSU) researchers explain that the study is one of the first to investigate how psychological experiences at work shape eating behaviors.
Investigators discovered work day stress can lead to overeating and unhealthy food choices at dinnertime. But, they also found that a good night’s sleep can serve as a protecting factor between job stress and unhealthy eating in the evening.
The study appears online in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
“We found that employees who have a stressful workday tend to bring their negative feelings from the workplace to the dinner table, as manifested in eating more than usual and opting for more junk food instead of healthy food,” said Chu-Hsiang “Daisy” Chang, MSU associate professor of psychology and study co-author.
“However, another key finding showed how sleep helped people deal with their stressful eating after work,” she added.
“When workers slept better the night before, they tended to eat better when they experienced stress the next day.”
The research involved two studies of 235 total workers in China.
One study dealt with information-technology employees who regularly experienced high workload and felt there was never enough time in the workday. The second study involved call-center workers who often got stressed from having to deal with rude and demanding customers.
In both cases, workday stress was linked to employees’ negative mood while on the job, which in turn was linked to unhealthy eating in the evening, said Yihao Liu, co-author and assistant professor at the University of Illinois.
The study proposed two potential explanations, Liu said.
“First, eating is sometimes used as an activity to relieve and regulate one’s negative mood, because individuals instinctually avoid aversive feelings and approach desire feelings,” he said.
“Second, unhealthy eating can also be a consequence of diminished self-control. When feeling stressed out by work, individuals usually experience inadequacy in exerting effective control over their cognitions and behaviors to be aligned with personal goals and social norms.”
Chang said the finding that sleep protects against unhealthy eating following workday stress shows how the health behaviors are related.
“A good night’s sleep can make workers replenished and feel vigorous again, which may make them better able to deal with stress at work the next day and less vulnerable to unhealthy eating,” she said.
To address the problem, companies should emphasize the importance of health management for their employees and consider sleep-awareness training and flexible scheduling.
Companies should also reconsider the value of food-related job perks, which have become very common.
“Food-related perks may only serve as temporary mood-altering remedies for stressed employees,” Chang said, “and failure to address the sources of the work stress may have potential long-term detrimental effects on employee health.”
Source: Michigan State University
Ketamine is a medication mainly used for starting and maintaining anesthesia although it has also been used to provide rapid relief of treatment resistant depression.
The ability to rapidly stabilize severely depressed patients has been demonstrated in several studies and has led researchers to search for the exact mechanism by which ketamine works.
The effort is important as ketamine is sometimes illicitly used for its psychedelic properties and could also impede memory and other brain functions.
The multiple actions of ketamine has spurred scientists to identify new drugs that would safely replicate its antidepressant response without the unwanted side effects.
Now, emerging research from University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center scientists has identified a key protein that helps trigger ketamine’s rapid antidepressant effects in the brain. This is a crucial step to developing alternative treatments to the controversial drug being dispensed in a growing number of clinics across the country.
Researchers from the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute have now answered a question vital to guiding future research: What proteins in the brain does ketamine target to achieve its effects?
“Now that we have a target in place, we can study the pathway and develop drugs that safely induce the antidepressant effect,” said Dr. Lisa Monteggia, Professor of Neuroscience at UT Southwestern’s O’Donnell Brain Institute.
The study published in Nature shows that ketamine blocks a protein responsible for a range of normal brain functions. The blocking of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor creates the initial antidepressant reaction, and a metabolite of ketamine is responsible for extending the duration of the effect.
The blocking of the receptor also induces many of ketamine’s hallucinogenic responses. The drug — used for decades as an anesthetic — can distort the senses and impair coordination.
But if taken with proper medical care, ketamine may help severely depressed or suicidal patients in need of a quick, effective treatment, Dr. Monteggia said.
Studies have shown ketamine can stabilize patients within a couple of hours, compared to other antidepressants that often take a few weeks to produce a response — if a response is induced at all.
“Patients are demanding ketamine, and they are willing to take the risk of potential side effects just to feel better,” Dr. Monteggia said.
“This demand is overriding all the questions we still have about ketamine. How often can you have an infusion? How long can it last? There are a lot of aspects regarding how ketamine acts that are still unclear.”
Researchers will work to answer these questions as they plan two clinical trials with ketamine, including an effort to administer the drug through a nasal spray as opposed to intravenous infusions.
The results of these trials will have major implications for the millions of depressed patients seeking help, in particular those who have yet to find a medication that works.
A major national study UT Southwestern led more than a decade ago (STAR*D) yielded insight into the prevalence of the problem: Up to a third of depressed patients don’t improve upon taking their first medication, and about 40 percent of people who start taking antidepressants stop taking them within three months.
Ketamine, due to the potential side effects, is mainly being explored as a treatment only after other antidepressants have failed. But for patients on the brink of giving up, waiting weeks to months to find the right therapy may not be an option.
“Ketamine opens the door to understanding how to achieve rapid action and to stabilize people quickly. Because the (NMDA) receptor that is the target of ketamine is not involved in how other classical serotonin-based antidepressants work, our study opens up a new avenue of drug discovery,” said Dr. Monteggia.
A new study finds that in addition to cardiovascular and physical health benefits, pedaling to work can help reduce stress and improve work performance.
Researchers from Concordia’s John Molson School of Business (JMSB) compared how different modes of commuting — cycling, driving a car, and taking public transport — affected stress and mood at work.
Drs. Stéphane Brutus and Alexandra Panaccio, and Roshan Javadian, M.Sc., discovered cycling to work is a good way to have a good day. “Employees who cycled to work showed significantly lower levels of stress within the first 45 minutes of work than those who traveled by car,” said Brutus, the lead author.
Interestingly, the study did not find that riding to work made any difference on mood.
The research appears the International Journal of Workplace Health Management.
For the study, investigators collected data from 123 employees at Autodesk, an information technology company in Old Montreal, using a web-based survey. Respondents replied to questions about their mood, perceived commuting stress, and mode of travel.
The survey differentiated between perceived stress and mood, a more transient state affected by personality traits and emotions.
The study only assessed answers from respondents who had completed the questionnaire within 45 minutes of arriving at work. This was done to get a more “in-the-moment” assessment of employees’ stress and mood.
Brutus notes that this time specification was the study’s major innovation.
“Recent research has shown that early morning stress and mood are strong predictors of their effect later in the day,” he said. “They can shape how subsequent events are perceived, interpreted, and acted upon for the rest of the day.”
He adds that the time specification ensured a more precise picture of stress upon arrival at work. Retrospective assessments can be colored by stressors that occur later in the workday.
“There are relatively few studies that compare the affective experiences of cyclists with those of car and public transport users,” said Brutus, an avid cyclist himself. “Our study was an attempt to address that gap.”
At the same time, the team confirmed previous research that found that cyclists perceived their commute as being less stressful than those who traveled by car.
Cycling has been shown to be a relatively inexpensive mode of transportation and a good form of physical activity.
A 2015 study from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy found that cycling could help reduce CO2 emissions from urban passenger transportation by 11 percent by 2050. It could also save society US $24 trillion globally between 2015 and 2050.
Brutus pointed out that only around six percent of Americans or Canadians cycled to work, although the number is growing. However, the countries still significantly lag behind many European countries.
There is potential for public policymakers to seize on this, he said.
“With growing concerns about traffic congestion and pollution, governments are increasingly promoting non-motorized alternative modes of transport, such as walking and cycling. I can only hope that further studies will follow our lead and develop more precise and deliberate research into this phenomenon.”
Source: Concordia University
A new Canadian brain imaging study finds that brain inflammation is more than 30 per cent higher in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) than in people without the condition.
Researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto believe the finding may represent one of the biggest breakthroughs in understanding the biology of OCD, and may lead to the development of new treatments.
OCD is an anxiety disorder which can be debilitating for people who experience it. About one to two per cent of adolescents and adults suffer from OCD, an anxiety disorder in which people have intrusive or worrisome thoughts that recur and can be hard to ignore.
“Our research showed a strong relationship between brain inflammation and OCD, particularly in the parts of the brain known to function differently in OCD,” said Dr. Jeffrey Meyer, senior author of the study and Head of the Neuroimaging Program in Mood & Anxiety in CAMH’s Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute.
“This finding represents one of the biggest breakthroughs in understanding the biology of OCD, and may lead to the development of new treatments.”
Inflammation or swelling is the body’s response to infection or injury, and helps the body to heal. But, in some cases, this immune-system response can also be harmful, Meyer said.
Dampening the harmful effects of inflammation and promoting its curative effects, through new medications or other innovative approaches, could prove to be a new way to treat OCD.
In an earlier study, Meyer discovered that brain inflammation is elevated in people with depression, an illness that can go hand in hand with OCD in some people.
A novel direction for developing treatments is important, since current medications don’t work for nearly one in three people with OCD.
The study included 20 people with OCD and a comparison group of 20 people without the disorder. Doctoral student Sophia Attwells was first author of the study. The researchers used a type of brain imaging called positron emission tomography (PET) that was adapted with special technology at CAMH to see inflammation in the brain.
A chemical dye measured the activity of immune cells called microglia, which are active in inflammation, in six brain areas that play a role in OCD. In people with OCD, inflammation was 32 per cent higher on average in these regions.
Inflammation was greater in some people with OCD as compared to others, which could reflect variability in the biology of the illness.
Additional investigations are under way to find low-cost blood markers and symptom measures that could identify which individuals with OCD have the greatest level of inflammation and could benefit the most from treatment targeting inflammation.
Another notable finding from the current study – a connection between resisting compulsions and brain inflammation – provides one indicator. At least nine out of 10 people with OCD carry out compulsions, the actions or rituals that people do to try to reduce their obsessions.
In the study, people who experienced the greatest stress or anxiety when they tried to avoid acting out their compulsions also had the highest levels of inflammation in one brain area. This stress response could also help pinpoint who may best benefit from this type of treatment.
The discovery opens different options for developing treatments.
“Medications developed to target brain inflammation in other disorders could be useful in treating OCD,” said Meyer.
“Work needs to be done to uncover the specific factors that contribute to brain inflammation, but finding a way to reduce inflammation’s harmful effects and increase its helpful effects could enable us to develop a new treatment much more quickly.”
Study findings appear in JAMA Psychiatry.
Hiding your true self at work can harm your career and reduce your sense of belonging among co-workers, according to a new study led by the University of Exeter in England.
Researchers investigated commonly stigmatized traits — being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), or having a history of poverty or mental or physical illness. They discovered that hiding such characteristics from coworkers resulted in lower self-esteem, job satisfaction and commitment at work.
“People may choose to conceal stigmatized identities because they want to be accepted, but in fact doing so reduces feelings of belonging,” said Professor Manuela Barreto at the University of Exeter. “When someone conceals their true identity, their social interactions suffer, and this has an impact not just on the individual but also on the organisation they work for.”
The findings are based on studies conducted in the Netherlands and the U.S.
In one experiment, participants were encouraged to remember a time when they either concealed or revealed a stigmatized characteristic about themselves. In another experiment, participants were presented with fictional scenarios that either involved hiding or revealing their stigmatized identity. In both experiments, participants were asked how they would feel after hiding or revealing the stigmatized characteristic.
“Our findings suggest that openness about one’s identity is often beneficial for stigmatized individuals, the stigmatized group and their workplace,” said Barreto.
However, the researchers recognize that not everyone can be open in all contexts.
“It is clear that there are times when revealing a stigmatized identity can be very costly,” said Dr. Anna Newheiser of the University at Albany, SUNY (State University of New York). “Those effects are very real and worth avoiding in certain circumstances, but it is important to realize that there is also a cost to hiding your true self.”
The paper touches on the “hidden ramifications of prejudice,” which harm both individuals and organizations.
“What we need are environments where people don’t need to hide — inclusive environments where people don’t have to make a choice between being liked and being authentic,” said Barreto. “Workplaces that push individuals to hide their differences do not erase difference — they simply encourage masking and concealment of diversity.
“Given that identity concealment is by nature an invisible act, its social and organisational costs may also be difficult to detect, explain and correct.”
The study is published in the Journal of Social Issues.
Source: University of Exeter
New research finds the time a person goes to bed can influence their perceived ability to control obsessive thoughts.
Investigators from Binghamton University, State University of New York, monitored 20 individuals diagnosed with OCD and 10 endorsing sub-threshold OCD symptoms during one week of sleep.
The research was led by Dr. Meredith E. Coles and former graduate student Jessica Schubert (now at University of Michigan Medical School).
Participants completed sleep diaries and daily ratings of perceived degree of control over obsessive thoughts and ritualized behaviors.
The researchers found that previous night’s bedtime significantly predicted participants’ perceived ability to control their obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior on the subsequent day.
“We’re really interested in how this kind of unusual timing of sleep might affect cognitive functioning,” said Schubert.
“One possibility is impulse control. It might be that something about shifting the timing of your sleep might reduce your ability to control your thoughts and your behaviors, so it might make it more likely that you’re going to have a hard time dismissing intrusive thoughts characteristic of obsessions, and it might make it more difficult for you to refrain from compulsive behaviors that are designed to reduce the anxiety caused by obsessive thoughts.”
The average bedtime for participants in the study was around 12:30 a.m. Patients who met criteria for delayed sleep phase disorder, about 40 percent of the sample, went to bed around 3:00 a.m.
“I always knew you were supposed to get eight hours of sleep, but I was never told it matters when you do it,” said Coles.
“It’s been striking to me that this difference seems to be very specific to the circadian component of when you sleep. That we find that there are specific negative consequences of sleeping at the wrong times, that’s something to educate the public about.”
The researchers are interested in exploring this phenomenon further. Coles plans on collecting pilot data using lightboxes to shift people’s bedtimes.
“It’s one of our first efforts to actually shift their bedtimes and see if it reduces their OCD symptoms, and if this improves their ability to resist those intrusive thoughts and not develop compulsions in response to them.”
Source: Binghamton University
Adults who experience separation anxiety are more susceptible to marketing themes that play on emotions surrounding home life, according to a new study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.
Adult separation anxiety disorder (ASAD) is a mental health condition characterized by excessive anxiety in response to being separated from places or people to whom one has a strong emotional attachment. The lifetime incidence of ASAD in the United States is estimated to be 6.6 percent, but a much higher percentage may experience symptoms of the disorder.
The authors assert that consumer advertising regularly invokes the idea of home, citing recent Super Bowl ads by Jeep and Budweiser as examples.
They suggest that therapists discuss these matters with their ASAD patients so they are aware of their susceptibility to marketing themes around “going home,” as these types of ads can exacerbate symptoms and make ASD patients quite vulnerable to coercion.
“Importantly, our research suggests a vulnerability to persuasion among those with adult separation anxiety disorder symptoms that goes beyond simply the appeal of a product itself,” write Dr. Steve Posavac, E. Bronson Ingram Professor of Marketing at Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management and co-author and psychologist Dr. Heidi Posavac. “Featuring the concept of home as an advertising theme leads to more favorability towards the persuasive attempt.”
For the study, conducted at Vanderbilt Business’ Behavioral Research Lab, participants completed an ASAD questionnaire published by the American Psychiatric Institute. Later, they read an Internet advertisement for a fictitious airline: one version played upon a theme of “coming home to family,” the other promoted a message of “seeing new things.”
Participants who scored high in ASAD symptoms had more favorable attitudes toward the home-themed ad, while those with little to no symptoms offered no preference.
While the study findings may suggest an opportunity for marketers, the researchers caution that it may also reflect a threat for people who suffer from adult separation anxiety disorder. Should marketers be able to identify and target a subgroup of consumers with ASAD or ASAD symptoms, home-themed advertising might increase sales, but the impact on the consumers themselves might not be so positive.
“Whether in individual treatment sessions, or with a psychoeducational approach, individuals experiencing chronic adult separation anxiety may be well served by clinicians who help to inoculate them against the possibility of coming under undue influence by savvy marketers,” the authors write.
Source: Vanderbilt University
A new Canadian pilot program designed to promote mental health skills in youth significantly lessened cases of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
University of Alberta researchers led the EMPATHY program in a local school district from 2013 to 2015. The program was offered to more than 6,000 youth in grades six through 12.
A follow-up study conducted 15 months after the program ended found the percentage of the total school population who were actively suicidal decreased from 4.4 percent to 2.8 percent.
Moreover, rates of anxiety, depression and thoughts of self-harm also saw significant declines.
“With the school board’s active participation, we switched some of the health classes to mental health training and resiliency classes,” said Dr. Peter Silverstone, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Alberta.
“What this shows is that if you put this program into schools, you change kids fundamentally. And these changes last well over a year.”
Youth in middle school were offered courses in mental health training, while those in high school had access to professional help if they were identified as having severe depression or suicidal thoughts.
After first having their parents notified, the youth were offered supervised online interventions with trained therapists. If further help was needed, families were then referred to external specialists in mental health.
The program was introduced following a rash of suicides among youth in the Red Deer school district during the 2013-2014 school year.
Superintendent Stu Henry said that within a year and a half of the program’s start, dramatic improvements could already be seen. He believes the results show there is a need for mental health training among youth.
“I think our world is more complicated than it has ever been and it is hard on kids,” said Henry. “We see more and more of them presenting with complex mental health issues. So for us to be able to address that issue and tackle it with a really comprehensive approach, is powerful.”
Along with lower rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, Silverstone said the use of drugs, alcohol and incidents of bullying also decreased among youth following participation in the program.
EMPATHY was discontinued after a loss of funding in 2015, but Silverstone believes it can act as a key tool in the prevention of mental health problems in youth before they get out of hand.
“Most psychiatric conditions start in the late teens and early 20s,” said Silverstone. “If you can prevent that, or give kids tools to help deal with it, you can have a major impact on the individuals and on society.”
Henry agrees. Despite seeing the program end, Red Deer Public Schools has continued to use elements of EMPATHY. Mental health training is still taught in its middle school health classes and the school district has kept an active relationship with Alberta Health, Primary Care Networks and other agencies in order to pro-actively offer help to kids in need.
Starting next year, Red Deer Public Schools will also have several mental health therapists housed in its schools as part of a new pilot project.
“It is very much modeled on the pieces that we really thought made a difference during the EMPATHY project,” said Henry.
“If we can normalize talk about mental health and have somebody that the kids know at the school who has got that level of training and support who can help them at the school level, then we will greatly reduce emergency issues.”
“These sorts of programs can be transformative for vast numbers of kids in a way that almost nothing else can be,” said Silverstone.
“And that translates to a huge positive for society as a whole. Reduced crime, reduced dropouts, higher graduation rates — all of these things we believe are linked to these kinds of interventions.”
Source: University of Alberta/EurekAlert
A new study finds that nearly two-thirds of mothers of young children have been criticized about their parenting skills, often by someone within their own family.
Researchers say such disapproval may limit the time a mom and her child spend with her own family and that moms need support, not ridicule.
The new report comes from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at the University of Michigan. Researchers discovered six in 10 mothers of children ages zero to five say they have been criticized about parenting, on everything from discipline to breast feeding.
The report is based on responses from a national sample of 475 mothers with at least one child between ages zero to five.
Celebrity moms are not immune from the bashing: Actress Reese Witherspoon was recently food-shamed for feeding her toddler cinnamon buns for breakfast; critics were quick to judge model Coco Rocho for giving her baby formula.
But the problem doesn’t only affect the famous. Such “shaming” is a familiar burden for many common moms.
“Our findings tap into the tensions moms face when parenting advice leads to more stress than reassurance and makes them feel more criticized than supported,” said poll co-director Sarah Clark, M.P.H.
“Mothers can get overwhelmed by so many conflicting views on the ‘best’ way to raise a child,” she adds. “Unsolicited advice — especially from the people closest to her child — can be perceived as meaning she’s not doing a good job as a mother. That can be hurtful.”
Interesting, parenting complaints often come from a mother’s own parents. Thirty-seven percent of poll respondents have felt second-guessed by their mother or father.
That tally was followed by a spouse or their child’s other parent (36 percent) and in-laws (31 percent.) Mothers report far less criticism from friends, other mothers they encounter in public, social media commenters, their child’s doctor, and child care provider.
Discipline is the most frequent topic of criticism, reported by 70 percent of mothers who felt shamed. Other areas of concern are diet and nutrition (52 percent), sleep (46 percent), breast- vs. bottle-feeding (39 percent), safety (20 percent), and child care (16 percent).
Clark notes that the subject of discipline is especially controversial. Opposing views and cultural differences are common — spanking versus time-outs, for instance — or strict adherence to rules instead of allowing space for a child to explore.
New information about child health and safety also often challenge long-held parenting practices that other family members used themselves or have grown up with.
“Family members should respect that mothers of young children may have more updated information about child health and safety,” Clark said, “and ‘what we used to do’ may no longer be the best advice.”
Although 42 percent of mothers say the criticism has made them feel unsure about their parenting choices, it has also pushed them to be proactive.
Many of the mothers in the Mott poll said that they have responded to “shamers” by consulting a health care provider for advice. In some cases, new information prompted mothers to make a change in their parenting but other times, research validated a parenting choice.
Mothers in the Mott Poll were much less likely to report being criticized by their child’s health care provider than by family members.
“This indicates that most mothers view their child’s health care provider as a trusted source of accurate information and advice, not as a critic,” Clark said.
“Child health providers can help by encouraging mothers to ask questions about any parenting uncertainties, and offer reassurance and practical advice that helps boost mothers’ confidence and reduce anxiety around choices.”
Sixty-two percent of moms in the Mott poll say they get a lot of unhelpful advice from other people, while 56 percent believe moms get too much blame and not enough credit for their children’s behavior. And half of those surveyed said they simply avoid people who are too critical.
“It’s unfortunate when a mother feels criticized to the point where she limits the amount of time she and her child will spend with a family member or friend,” she says.
“To guard against that situation, advice to mothers of young children should be given with empathy and encouragement.”
Source: University of Michigan