In The News
New research discovers the abuse of prescription drugs by college students can play a role in negative sexual events such as sexual assault and regretted sex.
In prior studies researchers found that heavy alcohol use — by the victim and/or perpetrator — is a factor in more than half of sexual assaults on college campuses.
In the new research, Kathleen Parks, Ph.D., studied the effects of nonmedical use of prescription drugs (NMUPD) by college students. NMUPD is defined as the use of a medication without a legal prescription.
Parks discovered NMUPD can result in negative sexual events similar to that found with alcohol intoxication.
Parks studied nonmedical use of opioid analgesics (such as Oxycodone), anxiolytics/sedatives (such as Xanax, Valium, or Ambien) and stimulants (such as Adderall or Ritalin).
Overall, the investigators discovered that among the 1,755 students studied, more than 500 reported NMUPD, and of those, a significant number experienced negative sexual events.
More than 14 percent of the students who abused prescription drugs experienced regretted sex, and among the female students, 7.1 percent reported being victims of sexual assault.
Significantly, the only prescription drugs associated with regretted sex and sexual assault were anxiolytics/sedatives.
“The responsibility for rape or any sexual assault always falls squarely with the perpetrator,” Parks says.
“This study shows NMUPD, particularly anxiolytics/sedatives, can have similar effects as alcohol, including slowed decision-making and physical coordination, which can decrease the ability to recognize danger or fend off a potential perpetrator.”
The study did not find that nonmedical use of opioid analgesics or stimulants was associated with negative sexual events.
“NMUPD is an increasing public health concern, particularly among emerging and young adults,” Parks said.
“Given the results of this study, parents and college administrators should be concerned about the relationship we found between nonmedical use of anxiolytics/sedatives and negative sexual events, and find ways to educate students about the potential dangers.”
Source: University of Buffalo
Emerging research suggests there is hope when you find yourself working for a company that has a corporate culture or values that do not mesh with your personal ideals.
The issue is important for both employers and employees as an employee misfit is often associated with poor productivity impacting employer expectations and resulting in low work moral — damaging employee health.
Researchers discovered finding meaning outside of work and proactively tailoring duties on the job may help people who fail to gel with a company’s culture stay engaged and become more productive workers.
In a recent study, employees who were not a good fit with their company’s culture could remain engaged and productive through job crafting and enhanced leisure activities, according to Ryan Vogel, assistant professor of management, Penn State Erie, who worked with Jessica Rodell, and John Lynch, both of the University of Georgia.
Vogel said that this is good news for many employees who may not be working in their ideal jobs or organizations. Prior to this, employees were commonly thought to be passive recipients of their work situations, he added.
“Most of the books and information you see in the popular press are oriented around the idea of companies hiring to achieve a good fit with company values, and there are some benefits to that, but, unfortunately, there are some drawbacks, too,” said Vogel.
Ironically, hiring workers to match a cookie-cutter standard can backfire.
“If you have too many people who are exactly the same in an organization, it can make the organization stagnant and resistant to change.”
Employees who have different values — or misfits — may struggle in the organization, said Vogel.
“For the individual, if you don’t fit in, it can be a bad work situation,” said Vogel. “You don’t feel like you belong, your work has less meaning, and you may have trouble maintaining performance in that workplace.”
Job crafting allows workers to modify their job duties to better match personal abilities and interests, said Vogel. It can also allow employees to interact with colleagues who are more supportive, or who might be easier to get along with.
Misfits on the job may not dress or act different from other workers, according to Vogel. Misfit status is more about what the worker values, he added.
“These might be people who are under-the-radar misfits,” said Vogel.
“These are people who may, to others, be doing just fine but who show up to work every day and just feel out of place. Perhaps they highly value giving back to society, but work for a tobacco company, or they may highly value autonomy and making their own decisions, but they work for a highly bureaucratic organization.”
Vogel said organizations should be aware of how critical meaning and value are to new workers.
“What is even more concerning is the next generation of workers for whom meaning and values may be even more critical,” Vogel said.
“I think that for millennials and young people coming up in the workforce today having a job that has personal meaning is becoming more important.”
The researchers recruited 193 employees and their supervisors from a variety of industries using Craigslist.
They then sent the employees a questionnaire designed to measure individual and work values, job crafting, leisure activities, and engagement. The researchers sent a questionnaire to the employees’ supervisors to measure the employees’ job performance and behavior.
Misfit employees who reported in the survey that they engaged in more job crafting — for instance, they more regularly take new approaches to tasks or change minor procedures — were significantly less likely to suffer low engagement and performance.
Misfits with higher levels of leisure activity were also less likely to suffer these negative effects.
“While not hypothesized, the pattern of results further suggests that leisure activity not only mitigates the negative effect of value incongruence on job engagement, but could also positively impact job engagement for some misfits,” added the researchers.
The study appears the Academy of Management Journal.
The investigators say that future project may focus on the experience of misfits based on specific values. For instance, whether employees are labeled as misfits by other workers and the consequences of that label.
Source: Pennsylvania State University
New research discovers compelling evidence that symptoms associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder often persist into adulthood.
In the study, investigators found that sixty percent of children with ADHD demonstrated persistence of symptoms into their mid-20’s, and 41 percent had both symptoms and impairment as young adults.
Experts have often disagreed on the rate of ADHD persistence into adulthood. The variation in opinion is believed to stem from how information is collected and analyzed.
The current study represents a 16-year follow-up of the ‘Multimodal Treatment Study of Children with ADHD (the “MTA”)’. Saliently, researchers utilized a new study methodology to improve accuracy of findings.
Investigators believe the new method — which combines parent and self-reports plus a symptom threshold that is adjusted for adulthood — provides a better assessment of retained symptoms.
“There has been a lot of recent controversy over whether children with ADHD continue to experience symptoms into adulthood,” said Dr. Margaret Sibley, lead author of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry study.
“This study found that the way you diagnose ADHD can lead to different conclusions about whether or not an adult still has the disorder that started in childhood.
First, if you ask the adult about their continued symptoms, they will often be unaware of them; however, family members or others who know them well often confirm that they still observe significant symptoms in the adult.”
Dr. Sibley added that if the classic childhood definition of ADHD is used when diagnosing adults, many cases will be missed because symptom presentation changes in adulthood.
“By asking a family member about the adult’s symptoms and using adult-based definitions of the disorder, you typically find that around half of children with moderate to severe ADHD still show significant signs of the disorder in adulthood.”
Surprising new research finds that frequent viewing of selfies through social network sites is linked to a decrease in self-esteem and life satisfaction.
Intriguingly, posting selfies is not related to a similar issue.
“Most of the research done on social network sites looks at the motivation for posting and liking content, but we’re now starting to look at the effect of viewing behavior, a Ruoxu Wang, a Pennsylvania State graduate student in mass communications.
Viewing behavior or “lurking” describes when a person does not participate in posting or liking social content, but is just an observer.
This form of participation in social media may sound like it should have little effect on how humans view themselves, but the study revealed the exact opposite.
Wang and Fan Yang, graduate student in mass communications, conducted an online survey to collect data on the psychological effects of posting and viewing selfies and groupies.
They worked with Wang’s graduate adviser, Michel Haigh, associate professor in communications. Posting behavior did not have significant psychological effects for participants.
Viewing behavior did. They discovered the more often people viewed their own and others’ selfies, the lower their level of self-esteem and life satisfaction.
“People usually post selfies when they’re happy or having fun,” said Wang. “This makes it easy for someone else to look at these pictures and think his or her life is not as great as theirs.”
Those participants categorized as having a strong desire to appear popular were even more sensitive to selfie and groupie viewing.
In this case, however, selfie and groupie viewing behavior increased the self-esteem and life satisfaction for these participants, likely because this activity satisfied the participants’ desires to appear popular, according to the researchers.
Wang and Yang hope their work can raise awareness about social media use and the effect it has on viewers of people’s social networks.
“We don’t often think about how what we post affects the people around us,” said Yang. “I think this study can help people understand the potential consequences of their posting behavior.
This can help counselors work with students feeling lonely, unpopular, or unsatisfied with their lives.”
The study appears online in the Journal of Telematics and Informatics.
Source: Pennsylvania State University
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a time-efficient exercise strategy that allows people to squeeze their workouts into short periods of intense anaerobic exercise, separated by less-intense recovery periods.
These shorter workouts are an especially attractive option for those who want the benefits of exercise but are short on time. Still, there is the concern that many people may shy away from such strenuous exercise, believing it to be too uncomfortable or difficult.
In a new study, published in the Journal of Sport Sciences, researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) studied the attitudes of moderate exercisers toward HIIT. They found that not only are people open to the idea of such intense anaerobic activity, but that these bouts of exercise are particularly more enjoyable with music.
“There has been a lot of discussion in the exercise and public policy worlds about how we can get people off the couch and meeting their minimum exercise requirements,” says researcher Kathleen Martin Ginis, professor of health and exercise sciences at UBC.
“The use of HIIT may be a viable option to combat inactivity, but there is a concern that people may find HIIT unpleasant, deterring future participation.”
The new findings show that the participants (who were all first-timers to HIIT) not only had good attitudes toward this type of exercise, but that they also felt more positive about the intense exercise regimen if they listened to music while they exercised. The participants also maintained positive attitudes about engaging in HIIT again in the future.
“Newer research has established that as little as 10 minutes of intense HIIT, three times per week can elicit meaningful health benefits,” says researcher Matthew Stork, a Ph.D. candidate at UBC’s Okanagan campus.
“For busy people who may be reluctant to try HIIT for the first time, this research tells us that they can actually enjoy it, and they may be more likely to participate in HIIT again if they try it with music.”
According to many traditional exercise recommendations, adults aged 18 to 64 are advised to log a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise per week.
“Our research aims to learn more about people’s perceptions towards HIIT and ultimately determine if people can adhere to these types of exercises in the long term,” says Stork. “With the introduction of HIIT exercise, people may not necessarily require the dreaded 150-minute weekly total.”
Emerging research suggests binge-eating disorder (BED) may be associated with a variety of other illnesses.
Specifically, investigators discovered the disorder is often linked to disturbances related to the endocrine and circulatory systems.
Researchers discovered individuals with BED had a 2.5-times increased risk of also having an endocrine disorder and a 1.9-times increased risk of having a circulatory system disorder.
Among individuals with BED, those who were also obese had a 1.5 times increased risk of having a respiratory disease and a 2.6 times increased risk of having a gastrointestinal disease than those who were not obese.
Researchers hope that the findings may help improve detection of BED and improve the health of affected individuals.
“We encourage clinicians to ‘have the conversation’ about BED with their patients. Accurate screening and detection can bring BED out of the shadows and get people the treatment they deserve,” said Dr. Cynthia Bulik.
Bulik is senior author of the study, which appears in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.
“BED afflicts people of all shapes and sizes. The somatic illnesses that we detected were not simply effects of being overweight or obese,” she added.
A new paper discusses how the death of a pet helps children begin to understand the realities of life within their home environment.
Given the relatively short lifespans of many pets, it’s not unusual for children to witness the death of pets. But “how children understand death in these moments, and the ideas, feelings, and responses they have when their pets die are largely ignored topics,” said Joshua J. Russell, Ph.D.
In his research Russell, an assistant professor of animal behavior, ecology and conservation (ABEC) at Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y., has discovered that pets are more than just animals to children.
“They often see themselves as the center of their pets’ affections,” says Russell, who conducted one-on-one interviews with children between the ages of six and 13. “They describe their pets as siblings or best friends with whom they have strong connections.”
For example, Neville, a 13-year-old boy was shaken by the sudden death of his cat, even though it occurred two years earlier. “I asked Neville how he felt when he learned his cat was struck by a car and he replied, ‘My life was over.’”
Unfortunately, the joy of owning a pet often goes hand-in-hand with the heartbreak of losing one. Children, in particular, “have a distinct sense of existential fairness around whether or not an animal lived until an appropriate age,” Russell explains.
A short lifespan “is normal for hamsters and fish,” according to the children interviewed, “but unexpected for dogs, cats, and rabbits.” Similarly, different kinds of deaths mean different things to children.
“Children whose pets lived the extent of their potential lifetimes — or beyond — expressed acceptance upon their deaths,” Russell says.
The children also suggested that euthanasia “was the moral thing to do when a pet is suffering.” Conversely, children whose pets died unexpectedly “described it as emotionally and morally unfair, and had a much more difficult time reconciling the loss.”
In all instances, family and friends helped the children cope with the loss of their beloved pets through discussions and family rituals. Although, Russell discovered ambivalence about whether a new pet would lessen their grief.
“There were those who felt it would be wrong to move on to a new pet because they had to honor their relationships with the deceased one.”
Several children, however, “explicitly linked getting a new pet with feeling better,” Russell said. “They explained it as an opportunity to start over and suggested that replacing a companion animal is more about beginning a new relationship than erasing memories of an old one.”
Neville summarized it best, Russell concludes, when he said, “Sometimes death is tragic, like when a cat is run over by a car. But ultimately, death is part of life and life does go on.”
Source: Canisius College/Newswise
In the past, possession of an outgoing personality has been viewed as a favorable and often desirable match for team-based work.
New research suggests that while the personality characteristics are helpful for some aspects of team-based work, the style may also increase team conflict and stress.
An international research team look at the role of energy in the perceived advantage of being an extravert. Investigators from the University of Surrey in collaboration with the Center for Creative Leadership in North Carolina (USA), Erasmus University (the Netherlands), Grenoble Ecole de Management (France), and Cornell University (USA) teamed to craft an academic paper on the issue.
While it has long been thought that extraverts are at an advantage in team-based work, it has not until now been clear exactly what that advantage might be or how extraverts gain this advantage.
The recent study reveals that when a team agrees on the goals it needs to reach and the right approach to achieve them, extraverted people are able to develop more energizing relationships with their teammates.
As a result, they are perceived as proactively contributing to their team — for example by proposing new ideas or offering suggestions for improvements.
However, when there is team task conflict, this advantage appears to be reversed.
Extraverts then develop energizing relationships with fewer of their teammates and are not viewed as proactively contributing to the team. In these situations, they may be perceived as advocating ideas in a dominating, assertive, or even aggressive manner, potentially prolonging task conflict within teams.
In the study, published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, researchers studied 27 project-based teams at their formation, peak performance and after they were disbanded.
Each team was asked to develop a formal presentation on a Human Resources challenge during a three-and-a half month timespan. Teams were asked to report on conflicts and on the frequency of communication and relationships formed between teammates. The metrics were measured at each stage of the team-cycle.
- Study finds that extraverts are perceived as proactively contributing to teamwork because of their ability to develop energizing relationships with their teammates;
- Research results show that extraverts’ perceived contributions are strongly linked to the level of agreement within a team: they are likely to energize teammates when conflict levels are low but this advantage vanishes when there are disagreements within the team;
- Extraverts may even prolong task conflict within teams by voicing ideas in a dominating, assertive, or sometimes aggressive manner.
Professor Alexandra Gerbasi, Director of the Centre for Leadership and Decision-making at Surrey Business School, commented, “With shifts in organizational structures leading to more collaborative, team-based work, it’s often assumed that extraverts have an advantage when it comes to achieving success in the workplace, especially in team-based work.
“Our research shows that extraverts’ ability to energize their teammates has a lot to do with how much agreement there is within the team.
In situations where there is a high level of conflict, extraverts can be seen as “shouting the loudest”, showing a less desirable and productive side of being extraverted.”
Source: University of Surrey/EurekAlert
New research suggest memory retention can be improved if a person exercises after a study session.
Investigators from the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria say a student’s choice of activity after a period of learning — such as cramming for an exam — has a direct effect on their ability to remember information.
They explain that students should do moderate exercise like running rather than taking part in a passive activity such as playing computer games if they want to make sure they remember what they learned.
The study is published in the journal Cognitive Systems Research.
“I had kids in an age where computer games started to be of high interest,” said Dr. Harald Kindermann, lead author and professor at the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria.
“I wanted to find out how this — and hence the increasing lack of exercise in fresh air — impacts their ability to memorize facts for school.”
In the study, Kindermann and his colleagues asked 60 men aged 16-29 to memorize a range of information, from learning a route on a city map to memorizing German-Turkish word pairs. They were then split into three groups: One group played a violent computer game, one went for a run, and one (the control group) spent time outside.
The researchers compared how well the people in each group remembered the information they were given.
The results showed that the runners performed best, remembering more after the run than before. Those in the control group fared slightly worse, and the memories of people who played the game were significantly impaired.
“Our data demonstrates that playing a video game is not helpful for improving learning effects,” Kindermann added. “Instead it is advisable for youngsters, and most probably for adults too, to do moderate exercise after a learning cycle.”
Investigators believe many complex factors influence this effect.
The stress hormone cortisol is known to have an impact on our memory retention: in some circumstances it helps us remember things, and in others it impairs our memory. There are two types of stress in this sense, psychological and physical, and it could be that substances released by a physical stress like running improve memory retention.
The researchers had two main hypotheses. First, it could be that violent computer games trick the brain into believing it is under real physical threat. This, combined with the psychological stress of gameplay, means that the brain focuses on these perceived threats, and rejects any information it has just learned.
Alternatively, their second hypothesis was that the physical stress of running switches the brain into “memory storage mode” where it retains the information the student wants to remember.
During moderate exercise like running, the body produces more cortisol to keep the body’s systems in balance while it’s under physical stress. It’s this cortisol that could help improve memory. However, the link between cortisol levels and memory retention is uncertain, so further research is needed.
Kindermann and the team now plan to extend this study and investigate the effects of violent computer games and other post-study activities on long-term memory.
A preliminary study suggests that prescribed doses of folinic acid, a reduced form of Vitamin B known as folate, could help improve the language and communication skills of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
The study also identifies specific biomarkers that can predict treatment response in children with autism and verbal communication problems.
The findings stem from a placebo-controlled trial in which children were randomized to receive either high-dose folinic acid or a placebo.
Up to two percent of American children are said to experience symptoms that place them on the autism spectrum. Many of these children have difficulty communicating and interacting with others, especially within a social setting.
Researchers do not yet fully understand all the reasons behind the development of ASD and, importantly, there are currently no approved treatments that address the core symptoms of this disorder.
“The only currently approved medications for autism are both antipsychotic medications that address non-core symptoms and can lead to unwanted side effects,” said John Slattery, clinical research program manager at Arkansas Children’s Research Institute and a co-author of the study.
Scientific research has linked this disorder to abnormalities in the metabolism of folate as well as genes that are involved in folate metabolism. Certain studies have also shown that the offspring of women who took folate supplements before conception and during pregnancy had a lower risk of having a child with ASD.
About 10 years ago a condition known as cerebral folate deficiency (CFD) was described in which the concentration of folate is below normal in the central nervous system but not in the blood. Many children with CFD had ASD symptoms and responded well to treatment with high-dose folinic acid.
Lead author Dr. Richard Frye of and his team had previously shown that folate receptor autoantibodies were found with a high prevalence in children with ASD.
In the current study, researchers found that participants with folate receptor autoantibodies had a more favorable response to the folinic acid treatment. This leads the way to a test that might be useful for clinicians to determine if high-dose folinic acid might be a treatment for a particular child with ASD.
Related research on laboratory rat models have confirmed the deleterious effects of folate receptor antibodies on brain development and function.
“Improvement in verbal communication was significantly greater in participants receiving folinic acid as compared with those receiving the placebo,” Frye said. He added that the findings should be considered preliminary until the treatment has been assessed further in larger long-term studies.
The study appears in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
One of the differences between adults and preschoolers when it comes to private speech is that adults typically talk to themselves in their heads, while preschoolers talk to themselves aloud, particularly while playing or working on a task.
Private speech is a good thing for a child’s cognitive development; however, it may be important that children monitor and repair errors in their speech, even when talking to themselves.
In a new study, Dr. Louis Manfra, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri, found that children do, in fact, monitor their speech for errors, even without a listener.
Manfra says parents and caregivers might encourage preschool-aged children to monitor their private speech by demonstrating such behavior in their own aloud private speech.
“A disconnection between private speech and task behavior has been observed in studies of children with self-regulation issues, such as ADHD,” Manfra said.
“What was unknown until now was the extent to which preschool-aged children correct their own speech, and if they do so when talking to themselves. This is important because children who do not repair their speech may not benefit as much from their private speech as children who consistently repair their private speech.”
Manfra studied three- and four-year-old children to investigate their speech behaviors. The children worked on a project with building blocks, a problem-solving task known to elicit private speech.
The children talked through the project with someone and then alone. In assessing speech errors and self-repairs during social and private speech, Manfra found that approximately eight percent of preschoolers’ utterances made during problem-solving tasks contained errors and self-repairs.
Moreover, he found that children made errors and repairs both while talking through the task with another person and alone, providing evidence that they monitor speech for themselves, just as adults do.
“Adults often struggle to find the right word or have breaks in their speech as they think through a task,” Manfra said.
“Though they make corrections, they often internalize those corrections, talking to themselves in their head rather than aloud. To help children repair their private speech, adults working with children should model speech repair behaviors by talking aloud while working on a task.
Doing so will help children realize that even without a listener present, speech errors should be corrected.”
The study appears in the journal Early Childhood Research Quarterly.
Source: University of Missouri
A formal diagnosis of elder abuse is made in only one in 7,700 emergency department visits in the U.S., according to a new study by researchers at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, University of California San Diego, and Weil Cornell Medicine.
Prior research has shown that elder abuse affects approximately one in 10 older adults. The findings suggest that many cases of elder abuse either are not recognized and/or not reported.
With more than 23 million emergency department visits by older adults annually, the emergency department is an important setting to identify elder abuse and initiate interventions to ensure patient safety and address unmet care needs.
“These findings indicate that the vast majority of victims of elder abuse pass through the emergency department without the problem being identified,” said Timothy Platts-Mills, M.D., assistant professor of emergency medicine and co-director of the division of geriatric emergency medicine at the UNC School of Medicine and senior author of the study.
Given the severity of this problem, the researchers believe this is a major missed opportunity.
“Emergency physicians strive to make sure that for each patient who comes through the door, all serious and life-threatening conditions are identified and addressed. For elder abuse, EDs across the country are falling short.”
Elder abuse has far-reaching negative effects on physical and mental health. Many victims of elder abuse, like other vulnerable populations, do not receive routine care from a primary care physician and often depend on the emergency department.
However, identifying elder abuse is quite challenging, said Platts-Mills. Older adults who are physically frail or have cognitive impairment are vulnerable to injuries and may have difficulty caring for themselves.
“It can be very difficult distinguishing whether a bruise is from a fall or physical abuse, or whether poor hygiene is a result of a patient asking to be left alone or the result of overt neglect on the part of a care provider,” Platts-Mills said. “But those difficulties don’t change the reality that elder abuse is common, takes a tremendous toll on its victims, and is frequently missed.”
Emergency departments are seeing increasing numbers of older adults, and healthcare workers are struggling to meet the complex needs of these patients. There is a need for increased physician training and access to social workers who can identify and address gaps in care. The researchers plan on developing a new screening tool that would help improve the identification of elder abuse in the emergency department.
Currently, health care workers in emergency departments are trained to ask a single question about safety at home at the time of assessment. The new tool would use several questions to help uncover different aspects of elder abuse, including psychological abuse and neglect, and involve a physical exam for patients with significant cognitive impairment.
The findings are published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
A new review by U.K. researchers suggests anti-inflammatory drugs similar to those used to treat conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis could, in the future, be used to treat some cases of depression.
University of Cambridge researchers believe the findings further implicate the immune system in mental health disorders. Researchers from the Department of Psychiatry led a team that analyzed data from 20 clinical trials involving the use of anti-cytokine drugs to treat a range of autoimmune inflammatory diseases.
A review of the additional beneficial side-effects of the treatments showed that the medications exerted a significant antidepressant effect, when compared to placebos.
The findings were based on a meta-analysis of seven randomized controlled trials. Moreover, meta-analyses of the other types of clinical trials showed similar results.
Experts explain that when we are exposed to an infection, for example influenza or a stomach bug, our immune system fights back to control and remove the infection. During this process, immune cells flood the blood stream with proteins known as cytokines. This process is known as systemic inflammation.
Even when we are healthy, our bodies carry trace levels of these proteins — known as “inflammatory markers” — which rise exponentially in response to infection. Previous work from the team found that children with high everyday levels of one of these markers are at greater risk of developing depression and psychosis in adulthood.
This link suggests a role for the immune system, particularly chronic low-grade systemic inflammation, in mental illness.
Inflammation can also occur as a result of the immune system mistaking healthy cells for infected cells and attacking the body, leading to autoimmune inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and Crohn’s disease.
New types of anti-inflammatory drugs called anti-cytokine monoclonal antibodies and cytokine inhibitors have been developed recently, some of which are now routinely used for patients who respond poorly to conventional treatments. Many more are currently undergoing clinical trials to test their efficacy and safety.
The team of researchers carried out a meta-analysis of these clinical trials and found that the drugs led to an improvement in the severity of depressive symptoms independently of improvements in physical illness.
In other words, regardless of whether a drug successfully treated rheumatoid arthritis, for example, it would still help improve a patient’s depressive symptoms. Their results are published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
Dr Golam Khandaker, who led the study, says, “It’s becoming increasingly clear to us that inflammation plays a role in depression, at least for some individuals, and now our review suggests that it may be possible to treat these individuals using some anti-inflammatory drugs.
These are not your everyday anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, however, but a particular new class of drugs.”
“It’s too early to say whether these anti-cytokine drugs can be used in clinical practice for depression, however,” adds Professor Peter Jones, co-author of the study.
“We will need clinical trials to test how effective they are in patients who do not have the chronic conditions for which the drugs have been developed, such as rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s disease. On top of this, some existing drugs can have potentially serious side effects, which would need to be addressed.”
Khandaker and colleagues believe that anti-inflammatory drugs may offer hope for patients for whom current antidepressants are ineffective. Although the trials reviewed by the team involve physical illnesses that trigger inflammation — and hence potentially contribute to depression.
Khandaker’s team has previously found a connection between depression and baseline levels of inflammation in healthy people — that is, when someone does not have an acute infection. This discovery may be explained by a number of factors such as genes and psychological stress.
“About a third of patients who are resistant to antidepressants show evidence of inflammation,” adds Dr Khandaker. “So, anti-inflammatory treatments could be relevant for a large number of people who suffer from depression.
“The current approach of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ medicine to treat depression is problematic. All currently available antidepressants target a particular type of neurotransmitter, but a third of patients do not respond to these drugs.
We are now entering the era of “personalized medicine” where we can tailor treatments to individual patients. This approach is starting to show success in treating cancers, and it’s possible that in future we would use anti-inflammatory drugs in psychiatry for certain patients with depression.”
Source: University of Cambridge
A new study finds that depression affects a part of the brain that causes sufferers of the disease to feel a sense of loss and disappointment associated with not receiving rewards.
Specifically, investigators from the University of Warwick, U.K., and Fudan University in China found that depression affects the part of the brain implicated in non-reward, the lateral orbitofrontal cortex.
This area of the brain, which becomes active when rewards are not received, is also connected with the part of the brain which is involved in one’s sense of self.
Depression is also associated with reduced connectivity between the reward brain area in the medial orbitofrontal cortex and memory systems in the brain. Experts believe this could explain why people with depression have trouble concentrating on happy memories.
The study was carried out by Professor Edmund Rolls from Warwick, Professor Jianfeng Feng from Warwick and Fudan University in Shanghai, Dr. Wei Cheng from Fudan University, and by other centers in China.
For the study, almost 1,000 people in China had their brains scanned using high precision MRI. The imaging analyzed the connections between the medial and lateral orbitofrontal cortex, the different parts of the human brain affected by depression.
“More than one in 10 people in their lifetime suffer from depression, a disease which is so common in modern society and we can even find the remains of Prozac (a depression drug) in the tap water in London,” said Feng.
“Our finding, with the combination of big data we collected around the world and our novel methods, enables us to locate the roots of depression which should open up new avenues for better therapeutic treatments in the near future for this horrible disease.”
Professor Edmund Rolls looks forward to the new treatments the research could lead to.
“The new findings on how depression is related to different functional connectivities of the orbitofrontal cortex have implications for treatments in the light of a recent non-reward attractor theory of depression,” he said.
The research is published in the journal Brain.
Source: University of Warwick
For years the medical community has advocated maintaining a healthy weight as a tool to reduce risk of heart disease, cancer, and numerous other physical ailments. New research now suggests an appropriate body mass index (BMI) may also be good for your brain.
Researchers from the University of Arizona explain that having a higher body mass index, or BMI, can cause brain inflammation which negatively impacts cognitive functioning in older adults.
“The higher your BMI, the more your inflammation goes up,” said Kyle Bourassa, lead author of the study. “Prior research has found that inflammation, particularly in the brain, can negatively impact brain function and cognition.”
Previous studies also have linked higher BMI — an index of body fat based on height and weight — to lower cognitive functioning. But how and why the two are connected was far less clear.
“We saw this effect, but it’s a black box. What goes in between?” said Bourassa, a University of Arizona psychology doctoral student. “Establishing what biologically plausible mechanisms explain this association is important to be able to intervene later.”
Bourassa and his co-author, University of Arizona psychology professor Dr. David Sbarra, analyzed data from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging, which includes over 12 years’ worth of information on the health, well-being, and social and economic circumstances of the English population age 50 and older.
Using two separate samples from the study — one of about 9,000 people and one of about 12,500 — researchers looked at aging adults over a six-year period. They had information on study participants’ BMI, inflammation, and cognition, and they found the same outcome in both samples.
“The higher participants’ body mass at the first time point in the study,” Bourassa said, “the greater the change in their CRP levels over the next four years. CRP stands for C-reactive protein, which is a marker in the blood of systemic inflammation in your body.
Change in CRP over four years then predicted change in cognition six years after the start of the study. The body mass of these people predicted their cognitive decline through their levels of systemic inflammation.”
The findings, published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, support existing literature linking inflammation to cognitive decline and take it a step further by illuminating the important role of body mass in the equation.
Sbarra added a word of caution in trying to understand the findings.
“The findings provide a clear and integrative account of how BMI is associated with cognitive decline through systemic inflammation, but we need to remember that these are only correlational findings,” he said.
“Of course, correlation does not equal causation. The findings suggest a mechanistic pathway, but we cannot confirm causality until we reduce body mass experimentally, then examine the downstream effects on inflammation and cognition.”
“Experimental studies finding whether reducing inflammation also improves cognition would be the gold standard to establish that this is a causal effect,” Bourassa added.
Cognitive decline is a normal part of aging, even in healthy adults, and can have a significant impact on quality of life. The current research may provide valuable insights for possible interventions and new research directions in that area.
“If you have high inflammation, in the future we may suggest using anti-inflammatories not just to bring down your inflammation but to hopefully also help with your cognition,” Bourassa said.
Of course, maintaining a healthy weight is also good for overall health, he added.
“Having a lower body mass is just good for you, period. It’s good for your health and good for your brain,” Bourassa said.
Source: University of Arizona
A new study finds that children who have been in the U.S. foster care system are at a significantly higher risk of mental and physical health problems than children who haven’t been in foster care.
University of California, Irvine researchers discovered foster children have a higher incidence of a variety of conditions including learning disabilities, developmental delays, and depression as well as behavioral issues, asthma, and obesity.
”No previous research has considered how the mental and physical well-being of children who have spent time in foster care compares to that of children in the general population,” said study co-author Kristin Turney, University of California, Irvine associate professor of sociology.
“This work makes an important contribution to the research community by showing for the first time that foster care children are in considerably worse health than other children. Our findings also present serious implications for pediatricians by suggesting that foster care placement is a risk factor for health problems in childhood.”
The study has been published online ahead of print in Pediatrics, and is the first large-scale study to offer health comparisons based on a nationally representative sample of U.S. children.
Turney and co-author Christopher Wildeman, associate professor of policy analysis & management at Cornell University, analyzed data from the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health. Of the more than 900,000 kids included in the survey, 1.3 percent were identified as having been in foster care.
They were compared to children who hadn’t spent time in foster care, those who had been adopted from foster care, and those living in a variety of family arrangements, including single-mother and economically disadvantaged households. Using logistic regression models, researchers found that kids who’d been in foster care were:
- Seven times as likely to experience depression;
- Six times as likely to exhibit behavioral problems;
- Five times as likely to feel anxiety;
- Three times as likely to have attention deficit disorder, hearing impairments, and vision issues;
- Twice as likely to suffer from learning disabilities, developmental delays, asthma, obesity, and speech problems.
“This is typically a difficult-to-reach population, so having access to descriptive statistics on their living arrangements, physical well-being and behavior provided an excellent opportunity to help identify the health challenges they face,” Turney said.
“This study expands our understanding of the mental and physical health of these highly vulnerable children, but we must take a closer look if we are to understand how foster care really affects child well-being.”
A new study suggests a bad relationship during pregnancy increases the risk of infection in both the mother and the newborn. The study suggests emotional health can influence infectious disease in the mother and the risk can be transferred in the womb to impact the physical health of a newborn.
“My study does not prove that the first thing leads to the second. But those who report that they are dissatisfied in their relationship more often report illnesses during pregnancy. Their children are also reported ill more often during their first year,” said Roger Ekeberg Henriksen, who recently defended his Ph.D. thesis at the University of Bergen.
“If you compare the group of pregnant women with the lowest satisfaction to the group with highest satisfaction in their relationship, the first group’s risk of becoming ill is more than twice that of the second group.”
Henriksen said the gap between the groups is major. He added that the respondents’ level of education and income were above average, and so is the level of satisfaction in their relationship. But since the study is so comprehensive, all levels of society are represented.
When it comes to the children, the connections are even more obvious than with the pregnant women. In the study researchers examined the occurrence of eight different infectious diseases, from the common cold to stomach flu and inflammation of the ear.
They discovered in children up to six months of age that the occurrence of all eight infections was higher when the mothers were dissatisfied in their relationship.
In his thesis, Henriksen refers to research on stress in order to explain the connections between bad relations and physical illness.
“Relationship researchers have been interested in psychological factors such as depression and life quality. These are, of course, interesting and relevant factors. But when I was working with my master’s thesis, which was about shyness and somatic diseases, I was surprised to see how social isolation and loneliness directly affect the physiology.”
“You have a psychological experience, but how does this become a physical illness that makes you vomit or gives you a fever of a cough? This is an exciting path. If the idea is that stress makes us ill, we’ve already seen that there are individual variations and that social support is important.”
Henriksen explains that stress responses are completely natural to the body.
“For instance, they enable us to mobilize quickly in order to avoid dangers. In such situations, some bodily functions are prioritized before others, and the brain in particular is given extra energy under stress. When the stress response is transferred to the unborn child during pregnancy, evolution researchers claim that this helps the unborn child prepare for the world outside.”
It is not natural to remain in a stressed condition, however. If this happens, our immune system may be given lower priority, and we thus become less resistant towards infectious diseases from bacteria and viruses. According to Henriksen, this is the effect that comes into play in his research.
“If we look at brain research and other research on physiological mechanisms, we see that having a partner who is predictable and supportive may be decisive for our ability to handle stress. On the opposite side, stress responses may occur with the absence of social support.”
The thesis is based on the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa), a health study that has been collecting data about mothers and their children since 1999. The study of pregnant women’s infectious diseases includes more than 67,000 women. The study of children’s infectious diseases includes nearly 91,000 women and more than 100,000 children.
In order to measure contentment in the relationship, the women in the survey have responded to whether or not they agree with ten statements such as “My partner and I have a close relationship,” “I often think about ending the relationship” and “I’ve been fortunate in my choice of partner.” An average value was then estimated and used in the analyses.
“This is a relatively well-validated instrument,” Henriksen said. “We have research showing that mothers who are not doing too well are quicker to report symptoms with their children than others. But we have reason to believe that there is a clear connection here, not least because we see such a consistent pattern.”
Previous studies have shown similar connections. But none of the studies can maintain with certainty whether their findings reflect biological effects or other factors that affect the mothers and children’s health indirectly. Henriksen is hoping that further research on the field may contribute to filling a knowledge gap.
“For a long time we’ve been aware of the fact that stress may have a negative effect on your health, but it’s important to draw attention to the fact that social relations are at least as relevant as other factors. This applies to both partner relationships and social support from friends and family. In many instances this is also something that can be easily improved.”
Source: University of Bergen
Research suggests that maintaining some control of the job site environment may literally be a matter of life or death. Although experts were aware that having greater control over a job can help manage work-related stress, the new findings show that not having the ability to control work stress can be deadly.
Investigators from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business found that those in high-stress jobs with little control over their workflow die younger or are less healthy than those who have more flexibility and discretion in their jobs and are able to set their own goals as part of their employment.
Using a longitudinal sample of 2,363 Wisconsin residents in their 60s over a seven-year period, they found that for individuals in low-control jobs, high job demands are associated with a 15.4 percent increase in the likelihood of death, compared to low job demands.
For those in high-control jobs, high job demands are associated with a 34 percent decrease in the likelihood of death compared to low job demands.
“We explored job demands, or the amount of work, time pressure, and concentration demands of a job, and job control, or the amount of discretion one has over making decisions at work, as joint predictors of death,” said Dr. Erik Gonzalez-Mulé, assistant professor of organizational behavior and the paper’s lead author.
“These findings suggest that stressful jobs have clear negative consequences for employee health when paired with low freedom in decision-making, while stressful jobs can actually be beneficial to employee health if also paired with freedom in decision-making.”
The paper is scheduled to appear in the journal Personnel Psychology. The co-author is Bethany Cockburn, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Iowa.
Studies exploring the work factors associated with death are largely absent from the organizational psychology and management literatures. The authors believe theirs is the first study in the management and applied psychology fields to examine the relationship between job characteristics and mortality.
Gonzalez-Mulé said the paper’s results do not suggest that employers necessarily need to cut back on what is expected from employees. Rather, they demonstrate the value in restructuring some jobs to provide employees with more say about how the work gets done.
“You can avoid the negative health consequences if you allow them to set their own goals, set their own schedules, prioritize their decision-making, and the like,” he said, also recommending that firms allow “employees to have a voice in the goal-setting process, so when you’re telling someone what they’re going to do … it’s more of a two-way conversation.”
Thus, micro-managing employees can have a public health impact. Among people in the study’s sample, the researchers also found that the same set of causal relationships applied to their body mass index. People in high-demand jobs with low control were heavier than those in high-demand jobs with high control.
“When you don’t have the necessary resources to deal with a demanding job, you do this other stuff,” Gonzalez-Mulé said. “You might eat more, you might smoke, you might engage in some of these things to cope with it.”
Cancer research studies have found a correlation between eating poorly and developing the disease; at 55 percent, cancer was the leading cause of death of those in the paper’s sample. Other leading causes of death were circulatory system ailments, 22 percent; and respiratory system ailments, eight percent.
The paper provides more reasons for those in stressful, dead-end jobs to refresh their resumes and look for other employment. Twenty-six percent of deaths occurred in people in frontline service jobs, and 32 percent of deaths occurred in people with manufacturing jobs who also reported high job demands and low control.
“What we found is that those people that are in entry-level service jobs and construction jobs have pretty high death rates, more so than people in professional jobs and office positions,” he said. “Interestingly, we found a really low rate of death among agricultural workers.”
Gonzalez-Mulé said the new study highlights the benefits of job crafting, a relatively new process that enables employees to mold and redesign their job to make it more meaningful. Other research suggests that workers who engage in job crafting are happier and are more productive than co-workers who don’t.
“In some settings, it will be difficult to do this. For a construction worker, it’s going to really hard to allow them autonomy; there’s usually just one right way to do things. In jobs like that, it’s more about just warning the employee of the risks that are here,” he said.
“But with some blue-collar jobs, you can. Some people have experimented with this in factory settings, using things like flex-time and paying people based on piece-rate … showing employees what the outcome is of their work.
“There’s a lot research that shows that people who have a social connection with the beneficiaries of their work are much more satisfied and have less stress in their jobs, with no change in the job itself.”
Their study also found that people with a higher degree of control over their work tend to find stress to be useful.
“Stressful jobs cause you to find ways to problem-solve and work through ways to get the work done. Having higher control gives you the resources you need to do that,” Gonzalez-Mulé said.
“A stressful job then, instead of being something debilitating, can be something that’s energizing. You’re able to set your own goals, you’re able to prioritize work. You can go about deciding how you’re going to get it done. That stress then becomes something you enjoy.”
Researchers used data collected from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, which followed more than 10,000 people who graduated from Wisconsin high schools in 1957. They were interviewed at various time intervals over their lives, through 2011, to provide data on educational, occupational and emotional experiences. All participants in the study were employed but near the end of their careers.
Gonzalez-Mulé and Cockburn only included those who were not retired in 2004 and who responded to questions about job demands and job control, and then followed up on their responses to questions in 2011. They employed rigorous controls for factors such as demographic characteristics, socioeconomic status and affect.
Gonzalez-Mulé wonders if younger workers are better able to cope with demanding jobs, regardless of the level of control, than workers at the end of their careers. Future research could follow people at an earlier point in their careers to see if the Job Demands-Control Model accurately predicts strain over time.
Source: Indiana University
New research finds that depression has a significant impact on the life expectancy of lung cancer patients.
Worsening depression symptoms are associated with shorter survival for lung cancer patients, while conversely, when depression symptoms lift, survival tends to improve.
The negative effect of depression was particularly noticeable for those in the early stages of disease, say the researchers.
On the other hand, if depression can be reduced, the negative effects are eliminated.
“Surprisingly, depression remission was associated with a mortality benefit as they had the same mortality as never-depressed patients,” said lead author Donald R. Sullivan of Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.
“This study cannot prove causation — but it lends support to the idea that surveillance for depression symptoms and treatment for depression could provide significant impact on patient outcomes, perhaps even a mortality benefit,” explains Sullivan.
The researchers followed more than 1,700 patients newly diagnosed with lung cancer between 2003 and 2005 who had completed an eight-item depression assessment at diagnosis and again 12 months later.
Almost 40 percent, 681 people, had depressive symptoms at diagnosis and 14 percent, 105 people, developed new-onset symptoms during treatment.
Overall, those who were depressed at the beginning of the study period were 17 percent more likely to die during follow-up than those without depressive symptoms.
The study appears online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Compared to the 640 people who never developed depression symptoms, the 105 with new-onset symptoms were 50 percent more likely to die. Another 254 people whose depression symptoms persisted throughout the study period were 42 percent more likely to die.
However, those who had depressive symptoms at diagnosis but did not have them one year later had a similar risk of death to those who were never depressed. The researchers did not have any data on how or why these patients experienced depression remission.
“We have known since the 1970’s that a cancer diagnosis sets off a period of existential plight, a period that lasts about 100 days during which people ask questions of life and death and worry about their health and the meaning of their physical symptoms,” said Mark Lazenby, associate professor at the Yale School of Nursing in New Haven, Connecticut and a member of Yale Cancer Center.
“Although from this study we cannot say that treating depression would extend survival, other studies have shown that care aimed at improving the psychosocial well-being, which includes but is not limited to detecting and treating depression, does have a survival benefit,” explains Lazenby.
Depression impacts quality of life and has been associated with missed appointments and lower adherence to recommended therapies, which could impact morality, Sullivan noted.
“Most of all, I believe a positive attitude, fighting spirit, and coping ability significantly impact a patient’s ability to persevere in the face of a life-threatening illness,” he said. “This is likely why married patients and those with strong social support networks have better cancer outcomes — having a ‘community’ to help share the emotional burden is essential.”
Mental and physical health are inextricably linked, he added.
“Clinicians have to do a better job of treating the whole person and not focusing on the disease only,” Sullivan said.
“From the patients’ perspective, hopefully some of them will take a look at this study and realize the feelings they are experiencing are common and they will feel empowered to advocate for themselves and ask their clinicians for help or resources when they need it.”
New research discovers perceived obesity leads to lower body satisfaction for females than males.
Psychologists at the University of York in the U.K. and the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm say their study is the first to investigate healthy individuals and their brain activity when perceiving themselves as either slim or obese.
The investigators found that the way we perceive our bodies directly triggers neural responses which can lead to body dissatisfaction.
To create a sense of illusory body ownership, participants wore a virtual reality headset and observed a video of an obese or slim body from a first person perspective, so when looking down the body appeared to belong to them.
Scientists then prodded the participants’ torso with a stick in synchronisation with the video, eliciting a vivid illusion that the stranger’s body was their own.
Monitoring brain activity in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner, scientists found a direct link between activity in the parietal lobe of the brain and the insular and anterior cingulate cortex. The parietal region controls body perception while the other brain regions influence subjective emotional processes such as pain, anger, or fear.
Such research helps to shed light on why sufferers of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa can be affected by a distorted perception of their body as overweight, when in reality this is biologically inaccurate.
Investigating healthy individuals allows researchers to examine the link between perception and emotion without the possibility that body starvation could affect biological results, as is the case when studying those with eating disorders.
Dr. Catherine Preston, Lecturer in York’s Department of Psychology and lead author of the study, said, “In today’s Western society, concerns regarding body size and negative feelings towards one’s body are all too common.”
Experts explain that little is known about the neural mechanisms underlying negative feelings towards the body and how they relate to body perception and eating-disorder pathology.
“This research is vital in revealing the link between body perception and our emotional responses regarding body satisfaction, and may help explain the neurobiological underpinnings of eating-disorder vulnerability in women,” said Preston.
Co-author Dr. Henrik Ehrsson of the Karolinska Institutet added: “We know that woman are at greater risk at developing eating disorders than men, and our study demonstrates that this vulnerability is related to reduced activity in a particular area of the frontal lobe — the anterior cingulate cortex — that is related to emotional processing.”
Preston hopes to follow up these findings with subsequent research investigating how emotions could affect body perception.
Source: University of York