19 Nov

Mystery solved? Study says three-fold increase in autism is due in large part to changing diagnoses

first_imgShare Pinterest Share on Facebook Share on Twitter “For quite some time, researchers have been struggling to sort disorders into categories based on observable clinical features, but it gets complicated with autism because every individual can show a different combination of features” said Santhosh Girirajan, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and of anthropology at Penn State and the leader of the research team. “The tricky part is how to deal with individuals who have multiple diagnoses because, the set of features that define autism is commonly found in individuals with other cognitive or neurological deficits.”Recent reports from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that there has been an increase in the prevalence of autism from 1 in 5000 in 1975 to 1 in 150 in 2002, then to 1 in 68 in 2012. Much of this increase has been attributed to increased awareness and a broadening of the diagnostic criteria for autism. But this new research provides the first direct evidence that much of the increase may be attributable merely to a reclassification of individuals with related neurological disorders rather than to an actual increase in the rate of new cases of autism.The greater than three-fold increase in autism diagnoses among students in special education programs in the United States between 2000 and 2010 may be due in large part to the reclassification of individuals who previously would have been diagnosed with other intellectual disability disorders.The researchers used data from the United States Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for students enrolled in special-education programs. Under IDEA, individuals are classified into one of thirteen disability categories including autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disability, emotional disturbance, other health impairment, and specific learning disabilities. Although many of the categories can co-occur in individuals with autism and show some of the same diagnostic features, children can be classified only under one category.The research team noted more than three times the number of cases of autism in 2010 as compared to 2000; however, nearly 65 percent of this increase could be accounted for by a reduction in the number of individuals classified in the intellectual disability category in the IDEA data. The diagnostic reclassification of individuals from the category of intellectual disability to the category of autism accounts for a large proportion of the change, which varied depending on the age of the children. The researchers estimate that, for 8 year-olds, approximately 59 percent of the observed increase in autism is accounted for by reclassification, but by age 15 reclassification accounts for as much as 97 percent of the increase in autism.“The high rate of co-occurrence of other intellectual disabilities with autism, which leads to diagnostic reclassification, is likely due to shared genetic factors in many neurodevelopmental disorders,” said Girirajan. “When individuals carrying classically defined genetic syndromes were evaluated for features of autism, a high frequency of autism was observed, even among disorders not previously associated with autism, suggesting that the tools for diagnosing autism lose specificity when applied to individuals severely affected by other genetic syndromes.”The researchers also noted that the relationship between autism cases and other intellectual disabilities varied state-by-state. When assessed individually, states such as California, New Mexico, and Texas showed no relationship between the prevalence of autism and that of intellectual disability, suggesting that state-specific health policy may be a significant factor in estimates of autism prevalence.“Because features of neurodevelopmental disorders co-occur at such a high rate and there is so much individual variation in autism, diagnosis is greatly complicated, which affects the perceived prevalence of autism and related disorders,” said Girirajan. “Every patient is different and must be treated as such. Standardized diagnostic measures incorporating detailed genetic analysis and periodic follow up should be taken into account in future studies of autism prevalence.”center_img LinkedIn The greater than three-fold increase in autism diagnoses among students in special education programs in the United States between 2000 and 2010 may be due in large part to the reclassification of individuals who previously would have been diagnosed with other intellectual disability disorders, according to new research.In a paper to be published online in the American Journal of Medical Genetics on July 22, 2015, scientists at Penn State University report their analysis of 11 years of special-education enrollment data on an average of 6.2 million children per year. The researchers found no overall increase in the number of students enrolled in special education. They also found that the increase in students diagnosed with autism was offset by a nearly equal decrease in students diagnosed with other intellectual disabilities that often co-occur with autism.The researchers conclude that the large increase in the prevalence of autism is likely the result of shifting patterns of diagnosis that are complicated by the variability of autism and its overlap with other related disorders. Emaillast_img read more

19 Nov

Bright screens at night imperil sleep of young teens

first_imgShare Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Email A new study has an important implication for tweens and young teens as they head back to school: Taking a gadget to bed could really hurt their sleep.Enough light exposure at night can keep anyone from falling asleep as quickly as they otherwise would have. But the new research, published online in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, finds that the sleep biology of boys and girls aged 9 to 15 who were in the earlier stages of puberty were especially sensitive to light at night compared to older teens. In lab experiments, an hour of nighttime light exposure suppressed their production of the sleep-timing hormone melatonin significantly more than the same light exposure did for teens aged 11 to 16 who were farther into puberty.The brighter the light in the experiments, the more melatonin was suppressed. Among 38 children in early to middle puberty an hour of 15 lux of light (think dim “mood” lighting) suppressed melatonin by 9.2 percent, 150 lux (normal room light) reduced it by 26 percent, and 500 lux (as bright as in a supermarket) reduced it by 36.9 percent. The 29 teens in the late or post-puberty stage were also affected, but not as much. Exposure to 15 lux did not suppress melatonin at all, 150 lux reduced it 12.5 percent, and 500 lux reduced it by 23.9 percent.center_img LinkedIn Pinterest The effects were the same for boys and girls.“Small amounts of light at night, such as light from screens, can be enough to affect sleep patterns,” said study senior author Mary Carskadon, professor of psychiatry and human behavior in the Alpert Medical School of Brown University and director of chronobiology and sleep research at the E.P. Bradley Hospital in East Providence, R.I. “Students who have tablets or TVs or computers — even an ‘old-school’ flashlight under the covers to read — are pushing their circadian clocks to a later timing. This makes it harder to go to sleep and wake up at times early the next morning for school.”Carskadon, lead author Stephanie Crowley of Rush University Medical Center, and their co-authors said children and their parents should limit use of screens at bedtime, even though it has become pervasive. One study found that 96 percent of teens use at least one form of technology in the hour before going to bed.last_img read more

19 Nov

News coverage of Hillary Clinton often emphasizes gender over competency, study shows

first_imgThe findings suggest that though this news media coverage shows some improvement in how Clinton was covered compared with previous research regarding representations of female politicians, the conversations still employ stereotypical feminine frames, including questioning Clinton’s proficiency as a leader.“Because of gender stereotypes, women are expected to act in particular ways that often place them in a double bind,” Harp said. “The double bind is an either/or situation where a person has one or the other option but where both options penalize the person.“One of these binds, femininity/competency is particularly tough for women politicians because to be feminine is seen as less powerful, which is clearly not good for a leader. At the same time to be a competent woman is problematic for many people who see that as unfeminine. So in this case the woman is criticized either way.”On January 23, 2013, Clinton executed one of her last significant duties as secretary of state when she testified at the congressional committee hearings regarding the 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans died in the attack. Both of the committees before which Clinton testified were made up primarily of men. News coverage hinted at a new double bind pitting competence against authenticity, whereas Clinton’s emotional displays during the hearing were regarded as either a lack of control that undermined her capability or an insincere show of emotion to escape blame for the situation.“Media coverage of the hearings is a particularly interesting site for analysis,” said Harp. “Not only was this an event in which a female politician participated in a heavily male-dominated setting, but also Clinton’s performance was at the core of the political event. The juxtaposition of gender and politics, televised for all to see, is especially noteworthy.”Harp undertook the new study with Ingrid Bachmann, assistant professor of communications at Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, and Jaime Loke, assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oklahoma. The three researchers also co-authored “Where are the Women? The Presence of Female Columnists in U.S. Opinion Pages,” in the June 2014 issue of Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly.For their new study, the team examined 93 articles and commentary from the eight most heavily visited U.S. news websites from Jan. 22 to Feb. 4, 2013. The news sites included CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, the Huffington Post, Fox News, the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today. News aggregators, such as Google News, and non-U.S. outlets, such as BBC News were excluded. News websites were examined as there has been a significant readership decline in traditional daily newspapers and the overall news market has grown as a result of the availability of online coverage.Harp’s study found that Clinton often is presented as a competent political figure, but also that her emotions are referenced in gendered ways. A Los Angeles Times story, for example, explained that at one point “Clinton’s voice broke.” USA Today highlighted both that she “was near tears as she talked” and that “she erupted in anger.” A Washington Post commentary described Clinton as “blowing her lid.”These descriptions are in line with past research findings that show how women’s emotions are the focus of much attention, whereas men’s emotional displays are scrutinized or mocked only when the reaction is deemed exaggerated or in violation of traditional masculinity, the paper found.One example of a man showing emotion that was later documented by the media includes former Speaker of the House John Boehner’s tearful episodes during important interviews and political events.However, for women, the study found that being emotional was described as a part of who they are. For men, it is a trait that is demonstrated only sporadically, a peculiarity that is not a part of being male. The two emotions most prominent in news websites’ coverage of Clinton during the Benghazi hearing were anger and sadness.The findings are in line with analysis of previous studies that have shown news coverage of female politicians is often sex stereotypical to the extent that the media function to undermine or even dismiss women politicians.“We found that when Clinton did show her humanity with an emotional display, either her capability was compromised by a show of weakness or her display was considered part of a calculated ploy,” Harp said.One of the senators at the Benghazi hearings complained to CNN that Clinton “used an emotional trump card” to avoid his questions, and a column on Fox News argued that the display had been strategically timed. Because she has often been considered hard and lacking warmth, in ways hindering her likeability, had Clinton not choked up when talking about the victims of the Benghazi attacks she would have arguably been criticized for being too cold and unsympathetic. This scenario perfectly illustrates the double bind’s no-win situation, Harp noted in the study.Elisabeth Cawthon, interim dean of the UTA College of Liberal Arts, said Harp’s study is an example of excellence in research into the human condition, a core theme of the University’s Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.“Dr. Harp’s work adds greatly to the ongoing, greater discussion about women in leadership, language used to define them, how these women are perceived in society, and the media’s role in perpetuating or dispelling stereotypes about them,” Cawthon said. “As more women enter higher-profile arenas, including the political sphere, studies such as this one can serve as a guide for those who have an impact on deciding what it means to be feminine or masculine, and regarding issues of gender equality.”Cawthon added that the research is especially timely considering Clinton’s historic bid to become the first woman president of the United States.Harp joined UTA in 2011 and has focused her research on issues of power and voice in the public sphere. She has published work on women and marginalized groups, journalism, and digital and social media.Harp also recently examined media coverage of the 2013 filibuster by former state Sen. Wendy Davis to block an abortion-restricting bill in the Texas Legislature. The move became a political exhibition and symbolized dominant gender values and norms. “The Spectacle of Politics: Wendy Davis, Abortion, and Pink Shoes in the Texas ‘Fillybuster,” is published online in the April 2016 issue of Journal of Gender Studies. Share Email Share on Facebook Share on Twittercenter_img Pinterest Though much progress has been made toward gender equality, news coverage of female politicians typically follows gendered lines that often disregards women’s competence in political affairs, a University of Texas at Arlington assistant communication professor has found.Dustin Harp, an expert in gender and media studies, examines the issue in “Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi Hearing Coverage: Political Competence, Authenticity, and the Persistence of the Double Bind,” which appears online in the June issue of Women’s Studies in Communication.News coverage of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is well studied concerning women in U.S. politics. In her timely paper, Harp investigated the ways in which gender played a role in the more recent discourse. LinkedInlast_img read more

19 Nov

Religion can diminish conservative opposition to eco-friendly buying, study finds

first_imgShare LinkedIn “Put more colorfully, Americans who are watching Fox News instead of attending church on Sunday morning appear to be particularly uninterested in buying with the environment in mind,” said Ecklund, who is also director of Rice’s Religion and Public Life Program. “It would stand to reason that those who participate in their houses of worship and who tend to be more engaged in civic life may have less time to be exposed to such media and therefore be less likely to follow the politicized conservative ‘line’ with respect to the environment.”The study also found that 12 percent of blacks are pro-environment consumers, compared with 19 percent of white consumers. Peifer said that a possible explanation for this is that black Americans face more social and economic issues than their white counterparts and have limited ability to be environmental consumers.Peifer and Ecklund said they hope the study will challenge stereotypes about how religion relates to environmental care.The researchers analyzed data from 10,044 individuals in the Religious Understandings of Science study’s environment module to test whether multiple measures of religiosity are significantly associated with consideration of the environment when people make consumer decisions (for example, shopping decisions). The survey sample estimated that 26 percent of Americans are evangelical Protestant, 15 percent are mainline Protestant, 5 percent are black Protestant, 24 percent are Catholic, 2 percent are Jewish, 7 percent are nonreligious, 4 percent are atheist and 4 percent are agnostic. In addition, 3 percent of individuals surveyed identified as extremely liberal, 15 percent identified as liberal, 11 percent identified as slightly liberal, 32 percent identified as moderate, 12 percent identified as slightly conservative, 20 percent identified as conservative and 4 percent identified as extremely conservative. Data used in the study was collected between Dec. 27, 2013, and Jan. 13, 2014.Simranjit Khalsa, a graduate student at Rice, was also an author of “Political Conservatism, Religion and Environmental Consumption in the United States,” which appeared in a recent edition of Environmental Politics. It is the first study known to measure various aspects of religiosity, politics, and their relationship to environmentally responsible consumer decisions, the authors said. Share on Twitter Pinterestcenter_img Some people have perceived that the combination of religion and political conservatism exacerbates environmental concerns in the United States. But researchers from Rice University and Baruch College have found evidence that religious identification and belief in a god dampen the otherwise strong negative effect that political conservatism typically has on whether people make purchasing decisions with concern for the environment in mind.At first glance, the researchers’ data show that political liberals are 8 percentage points more likely to say they identify as pro-environment consumers when compared with political conservatives. However, a closer look across levels of religiosity shows that this political gap is larger among the nonreligious (a difference of 12 percentage points between extreme political conservatives and extreme political liberals) and smaller among the very religious (a difference of 3 percentage points). The researchers said this suggests that religion can mute political differences when someone is being identified as a pro-environment consumer.“We suspect that a religious identity tends to diminish political conservatism’s negative impact on environmental consumption because religious identification encourages people to seek out visible behaviors (such as environmentally friendly behaviors) that demonstrate the value of their faith,” said Elaine Howard Ecklund, the study’s principal investigator and the Herbert S. Autrey Chair in Social Sciences at Rice, and Jared Peifer, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of management at Baruch. Share on Facebook Emaillast_img read more

19 Nov

Study finds knowingly taking placebo pills eases pain

first_imgLinkedIn Conventional medical wisdom has long held that placebo effects depend on patients’ belief they are getting pharmacologically active medication. A paper published today in the journal Pain is the first to demonstrate that patients who knowingly took a placebo in conjunction with traditional treatment for lower back pain saw more improvement than those given traditional treatment alone.“These findings turn our understanding of the placebo effect on its head,” said joint senior author Ted Kaptchuk, director of the Program for Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “This new research demonstrates that the placebo effect is not necessarily elicited by patients’ conscious expectation that they are getting an active medicine, as long thought. Taking a pill in the context of a patient-clinician relationship – even if you know it’s a placebo – is a ritual that changes symptoms and probably activates regions of the brain that modulate symptoms.”Kaptchuk, with colleagues at Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada (ISPA) in Lisbon, Portugal, studied 97 patients with chronic lower back pain (cLBP), which causes more disability than any other medical condition worldwide. After all participants were screened and examined by a registered nurse practitioner and board certified pain specialist, the researchers gave all patients a 15-minute explanation of the placebo effect. Only then was the group randomized into one of two groups; the treatment-as-usual (TAU) group or the open-label placebo (OLP) group. Email The vast majority of participants in both groups (between 85 and 88 percent) were already taking medications – mostly non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) – for their pain. (Patients taking opioid medications were excluded from the trial.) Participants in both the TAU and OLP groups were allowed to continue taking these drugs, but were required not to change dosages or make any other major lifestyle changes, such as starting an exercise plan or new medication, which could impact their pain.In addition, patients in the OLP group were given a medicine bottle labeled “placebo pills” with directions to take two capsules containing only microcrystalline cellulose and no active medication twice daily.At the end of their three-week course of pills, the OLP group overall reported 30 percent reductions in both usual pain and maximum pain, compared to 9 percent and 16 percent reductions, respectively, for the TAU group. The group taking placebo pills also saw a 29 percent drop in pain-related disability. Those receiving treatment as usual saw almost no improvement by that measure.“It’s the benefit of being immersed in treatment: interacting with a physician or nurse, taking pills, all the rituals and symbols of our healthcare system,” Kaptchuk said. “The body responds to that.”“Our findings demonstrate the placebo effect can be elicited without deception,” said lead author, Claudia Carvalho, PhD, of ISPA. “Patients were interested in what would happen and enjoyed this novel approach to their pain. They felt empowered.”Kaptchuk speculates that other conditions with symptoms and complaints that are based on self-observation (like other kinds of pain, fatigue, depression, common digestive or urinary symptoms) may also be modulated by open-label treatment.“You’re never going to shrink a tumor or unclog an artery with placebo intervention,” he said. “It’s not a cure-all, but it makes people feel better, for sure. Our lab is saying you can’t throw the placebo into the trash can. It has clinical meaning, it’s statically significant, and it relieves patients. It’s essential to what medicine means.”“Taking placebo pills to relieve symptoms without a warm and empathic relationship with a health-care provider relationship probably would not work,” noted Carvalho. Pinterestcenter_img Share on Facebook Share Share on Twitterlast_img read more

19 Nov

Scientists discover a brain wide chemical signal that enhances memory

first_imgShare on Facebook Email Professor Jack Mellor, lead researcher from Bristol’s Centre for Synaptic Plasticity, said: “These findings are about how brain state is regulated and updated on a rapid basis to optimise the encoding of memory and cognitive performance. Many current and future drug therapies for a wide range of brain disorders including Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia are designed to target chemical systems such as acetylcholine so understanding when they are active and therefore how they function will be crucial for their future development and clinical use.”Professor Lowry, who led the team at Maynooth University, added: “This work highlights the importance of cross-disciplinary basic research between universities and industry. Using real-time biosensor technology to improve our understanding of the role of important neurochemicals associated with memory is very exciting and timely, particularly given the increasing multifaceted societal burden caused by memory affecting neurological disorders such as dementia.”Primary author Dr Leonor Ruivo added: “This collaboration gave us access to a new generation of tools which, in combination with other powerful techniques, will allow researchers to build on our findings and provide a much more detailed map of the action of brain chemicals in health, disease and therapeutic intervention.”The study  ‘Coordinated acetylcholine release in prefrontal cortex and hippocampus is associated with arousal and reward on distinct timescales’ by Teles-Grilo Ruivo et al was published in Cell Reports. Share How does heightened attention improve our mental capacity? This is the question tackled by new research published today in the journal Cell Reports, which reveals a chemical signal released across the brain in response to attention demanding or arousing situations.The new discoveries indicate how current drugs used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s, designed to boost this chemical signal, counter the symptoms of dementia. The results could also lead to new ways of enhancing cognitive function to counteract the effects of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia, as well as enhancing memory in healthy people.The team of medical researchers at the Universities of Bristol and Maynooth in collaboration with pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly & Company, studied how the release of the chemical ‘acetylcholine’ fluctuates during the day but found that the release is at its highest when the brain is engaged with more challenging mental tasks. The fluctuations are coordinated across the brain indicating a brain-wide signal to increase mental capacity with specific spikes in acetylcholine release occurring at particularly arousing times such as gaining reward.center_img LinkedIn Pinterest Share on Twitterlast_img read more

19 Nov

Could we one day heal the mind by taking control of our dreams?

first_imgHowever, these processes can become interrupted or compromised, for example following traumatic life events. More than two-thirds of the general population will experience events that they find traumatic in their lifetimes, in some cases leading to post traumatic stress disorder. Nightmares are among the most common debilitating symptoms of this condition.But published case studies suggest that lucid dreaming can provide effective relief from chronic nightmares. More controlled investigations have also suggested that lucid dreaming, either as a stand-alone technique or as an add-on to other psychotherapeutic approaches, can be successfully applied to reduce the frequency and severity of nightmares.There is some evidence that lucid dreaming can be induced, too. In such studies, participants are normally taught a number of techniques, such as questioning the nature of one’s environment during the day – “Is this real or am I dreaming?” – which increases the chances of having a lucid dream. Participants are also asked before they go to sleep to realise that their nightmares are not real. However, it’s not really clear which induction techniques are most effectiveIn the nightmare study, participants also planned what to do once they were lucid (this helps the dreamer be prepared and maintain clarity of mind when confronted with fearful material). This training reduced the occurrence of nightmares even when the participant didn’t succeed in becoming lucid. Reports suggest that simple alterations – such as changing one item in the recurring dream – can significantly alter the emotional tone and experience of the dream, helping us realise it is not real and that we able to exert control over it.It would be premature to endorse lucid dreaming as the preferred approach for treating nightmares at the moment. But once we’ve collected enough data about the short- and long-term effects on nightmares and general well-being, there’s every possibility it one day could be.Lucid dreaming as a behavioural therapy?Trauma and the resulting nightmares are a feature of a number of other psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety or personality disorders, and even ADHD. While we often think about traumatic experiences as being the deaths of loved ones, an accident or a disaster, many psychologists acknowledge that any experience that overwhelms our ability to deal with things can produce PTSD-like symptoms. We tend to push these experiences away. However, recent research has shown that avoidance or suppression does not resolve unwanted feelings and thoughts. Instead, they tend to resurface in our awareness – including in our dreams. It may therefore be that our dreams can tell us something about the traumas we suppress.We also know that there is a correlation between our thoughts and behaviour in waking life and those in our dreams – known as the “continuity hypothesis”. So, if a person experiences fear or tends to act helplessly in waking life, they are more likely to do so in their dreams, too.In this way, dreams can lead to insights into how beliefs may condition responses, or offer valuable information to clinicians. By extension, if a person can become lucid within the safe realm of their dreams, these insights can come about as the dream is occurring. The most important aspect of this is that the person could actually respond in the dream – perhaps by tackling their fears through trying new behaviours. This may be a lot harder to do in real life, so lucid dreams could be a powerful starting point. The behaviours rehearsed in the dreams may also start to filter through to waking life on their own.Insight into – and the ability to step back from – one’s current reality is known as meta-cognitive awareness. This awareness is what helps certain people suffering from recurrent depression to get better through treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness meditation. Brain regions involved in meta-cognition are among the most activated in lucid dreaming. A study has shown that people who have lucid dreams frequently have better insight during the day. This suggests such dreams could potentially help us cultivate self-awareness.In principle, lucid dreaming may be a powerful tool for promoting insight and emotional change, as one gains moment-by-moment conscious access to the workings of the mind – including suppressed feelings. This may even offer a way to work with issues such as addiction, just as a hypnotherapist may approach a nicotine addiction by suggesting a conscious intent to the subconscious mind. This could help also people grow out of psychological blockages and dissonances, thereby reaching new levels of openness and psychological maturity. For example, lucid dreamers often report resolving waking life phobias, such as fear of flying, insects, heights, public speaking and so forth by acting in the relative safety of a dream.While there are yet to be scientific studies on whether lucid dreaming could indeed help treat such phobias, it is nevertheless a tantalising possibility that should be explored. Such research could enable us to understand whether and to what extent lucid dreaming can become part of the psychotherapeutic toolkit of the future and what insights it can give us into the workings of the subconscious mind.By Adhip Rawal, Lecturer In Psychology, University of SussexThis article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Share on Facebook LinkedIn Pinterest About 50 per cent of us will at some point in our lives experience “waking up” and being conscious while still in a dream – possibly, we may even be able to act with intention in it. Such “lucid dreams” are not only a vivid and memorable experience for the dreamer, they are also of huge interest to neuroscientists and psychologists. That is because they represent a strange, hybrid state of waking consciousness and sleep which could tell us completely new things about our inner lives and the subconscious.Many of the traumas we experience in our waking life are processed in our dreams. This has led some researchers to ask a bold question: could lucid dreaming one day offer a way to treat psychological disorders – enabling us to tackle fears and change behaviour in the relatively safe surroundings of our own dreams? So far, such psychotherapeutic application is relatively untested – but it has been used to treat recurrent nightmares, which are often associated with trauma.Sleep and (non-lucid) dreaming perform a number of functions that are important for our emotional health. For example, over successive cycles of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep (the phase during which most dreaming occurs), an overnight mood regulation takes place which “resets” emotional brain centres. For example, research has shown that we tend to become more sensitive to faces displaying angry or fearful expressions as the day progresses but that a period of REM sleep can reverse this tendency. This kind of sleep is also known to help us find new, creative solutions to waking life issues.center_img Share on Twitter Share Emaillast_img read more

19 Nov

Good-looking people are more likely to believe that life is fair

first_imgBeautiful people tend to believe that life is fundamentally fair and just, according to new research conducted with college students.The study, published in the journal Psychological Reports, examined the relationship between physical attractiveness and belief in a just world, meaning the belief that people get what they deserve and deserve what they get.“My primary area of research is the attractiveness stereotype, which refers to the human tendency to attribute positive traits to attractive people and negative traits to those deemed unattractive,” said R. Shane Westfall, a PhD student at University of Nevada, Las Vegas and corresponding author of the study. Share on Facebook Email Share on Twitter Sharecenter_img Pinterest LinkedIn “As I was reading more about the Just World Hypothesis for an unrelated topic, I noticed that the strongest endorsers of the hypothesis tend to be those favored by society. This led me to make a connection with my research, as more attractive individuals receive favorable treatment throughout their lives.”Two studies of 395 college students found that people who were more physically attractive were more likely to agree with statements such as “I feel that people get what they are entitled to have” and “I feel that people who meet with misfortune have brought it on themselves.”This was true both when the participants rated their own attractiveness and when the attractiveness of the participants was rated by their peers.“As humans, we often want to compartmentalize various aspects of our self,” Westfall explained to PsyPost. “This work helps to crystallize the message that our perception of the world is influenced by factors that we would tend to discount as tangential.”“Our personal beliefs and values are often simply a reflections of the stimuli that we’ve been exposed to, rather than representations of well thought out positions. In the case of this study, our conceptualization of justice may simply reflect our own privilege.”The study has some limitations, particularly in regards to its sample of participants.“The participants in this study were largely college-aged Americans,” Westfall said. “There is work finding cultural differences when looking at the just-world hypothesis, so perhaps this relationship would be different in other areas. More importantly, the participants were at an age where appearance is both very important and salient. One important area for future work is to see if this relationship changes as people age.”“Although our appearance is largely beyond our personal control, this work adds to the literature demonstrating the profound influence it has on our daily lives,” he added.The study, “The Influence of Physical Attractiveness on Belief in a Just World“, was authored by R. Shane Westfall , Murray G. Millar, and Aileen Lovitt.last_img read more

19 Nov

Study: People are strongly influenced by gossip even when it is explicitly untrustworthy

first_imgNew research in the journal Emotion suggests that people are highly influenced by gossip, even when it is explicitly identified as untrustworthy. The findings indicate that qualifiers such as “allegedly” do little to temper the effects of negative information on a person’s likeability.“Words and phrases like ‘apparently’, ‘allegedly’ or ‘is suspected of’ are frequently used in daily communication, in social media and in media coverage about people, in order to signify the questionable veracity of information. These terms even serve a legal purpose and are intended to prevent false accusations, prejudgments and defamations,” said study author Julia Baum of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and Berlin School of Mind and Brain.“Until now, however, little has been known about how our brain processes verbally communicated person-related information of dubious reliability and how this affects our judgments. Do we consider the uncertainty of information in order to temper our judgment about a person, formed on the basis of negative statements, and to prevent misjudgements?” LinkedIn Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Emailcenter_img Share Pinterest In two experiments, with 56 German participants in total, the researchers found that the judgment of people was strongly influenced by positive or negative information, even if that information was presented as uncertain.In the study, participants viewed photographs of unfamiliar faces and received verbal information about the person, which was either presented as trustworthy fact (e.g. “He bullied his apprentice.”) or untrustworthy gossip (e.g. “He allegedly bullied his apprentice.”). During subsequent person judgments, the researchers recorded the brain activity of participants using an electroencephalogram. They were particularly interested in two neurophysiological markers called the Late Positive Potential and the Early Posterior Negativity, which are both associated with emotional processing.“The experiments show that we tend to judge people on a strongly emotional basis, even if this judgment is knowingly based on unreliable evidence. Therefore, we should be aware that verbally marking information untrustworthy (‘allegedly’) does not seem to have the desirable consequences of preventing prejudgments or defamation,” Baum told PsyPost.“Similarly to situations in real life, the experiment participants were not explicitly asked to actively suppress the emotional content or to consciously consider the effects of rumors. Instead, the participants were free in their decision to use the indications relating to the questionable reliability of the information in order to put their judgments into perspective.”“Future studies should examine the circumstances in which the unreliability of person-related information is considered in order to regulate our emotional responses and judgments,” Baum said.The study, “Clear judgments based on unclear evidence: Person evaluation is strongly influenced by untrustworthy gossip“, was authored by Julia Baum, Milena Rabovsky, Sebastian Benjamin Rose, and Rasha Abdel Rahman.last_img read more

18 Nov

H1N1 FLU BREAKING NEWS: Vaccine disparity, containment steps, eye infection, possible vaccine reactions

first_imgPoor nations not receiving vaccineThough many nations have surplus H1N1 vaccine, much of it is not getting to developing nations, according to a New York Times story. So far, only two countries, Azerbaijan and Mongolia, have received vaccine. Afghanistan is slated to be next. About a month ago, the World Health Organization said it hoped to have shipped vaccine to 14 countries by now, of 95 nations that need it. Some of these countries are still experiencing significant pandemic cases and deaths.http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/02/health/02flu.htmlFeb 1 New York Times articleSummer camp containment efforts workedA program of hand hygiene, surface cleaning, and targeted antiviral treatment contained H1N1 flu at a boys’ summer camp in July 2009, says a new journal article. The program was launched after 12 boys attending the third camp session contracted flu. During the fourth 2-week session, only 3 of 171 campers tested positive for flu, an attack rate of 1.8%, far lower than cited at other summer camps. However, 57% of staff and 31% of campers who took an antiviral reported side effects.http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/2009.299?homeFeb 1 Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med reportStudy: H1N1 can affect conjunctivaResearchers in Hong Kong have found evidence that, although the pandemic H1N1 flu virus and seasonal flu viruses cause several comparable responses in the body, pandemic H1N1 has the distinct ability to replicate in the conjunctiva. The findings, published in the American Journal of Pathology, suggest subtle differences in H1N1’s receptor-binding profile in human hosts and demonstrate an additional route of infection.http://ajp.amjpathol.org/cgi/content/abstract/ajpath.2010.091087v1Jan 28 Am J Pathol abstractOntario probing illness in 17 vaccineesOntario’s health ministry is investigating 17 serious illnesses that occurred after people received H1N1 flu vaccine, the Toronto Sun reported today. There were four cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) and 13 anaphylactic reactions. Two GBS cases were in adults who received the vaccine from the same physician’s office in Markham, Ont., the report said. GlaxoSmithKline recalled 170,000 doses of vaccine in Canada in November because allergic reactions were more common than expected.http://www.torontosun.com/news/torontoandgta/2010/02/01/12701161.htmlFeb 2 Toronto Sun reportUK to end pandemic hotline Feb 11Because of waning flu activity, Britain’s hotline for pandemic flu diagnosis and antiviral prescriptions will be shut down on Feb 11, Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson announced in a letter to physicians. Donaldson said the service eased pressure on primary care physicians at the height of the pandemic, but flu-like illnesses and confirmed H1N1 cases now are less than half what they were before the service was launched. The service can be restored in 7 days if needed, he said.http://www.dh.gov.uk/dr_consum_dh/groups/dh_digitalassets/documents/digitalasset/dh_111598.pdfDonaldson letterlast_img read more