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Psychology, psychiatry and mental health news and research findings, every weekday.
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1 in 5 Kids with Tourette Syndrome Meet Autism Criteria

13 hours 40 min ago

A new study shows that about one in five children with Tourette syndrome also meet criteria for autism. But the researchers believe this prevalence may be due to a similarity in symptoms rather than actual autism.

Researchers at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) tested 294 children and 241 adults with Tourette’s for autism, using a self-reporting test called the Social Responsiveness Scale. The findings show that 22.8 percent of the children reached the cutoff for autism, versus 8.7 percent of the adults. In the general population, autism is estimated to affect only 0.3 to 2.9 percent, according to studies cited in the paper.

The findings are published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

The Social Responsiveness Scale Second Edition is a 65-item quantitative measure of autism symptoms that assesses the ability to engage in “emotionally appropriate reciprocal social interactions.” It evaluates levels of social awareness, social cognition, social communication, social motivation, and restrictive interests and repetitive behavior.

The researchers wanted to examine autism symptoms in patients with Tourette’s, including those who also have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conditions that frequently co-occur and are known to share common symptoms and genetic relationships.

“Assessing autism symptom patterns in a large Tourette’s sample may be helpful in determining whether some of this overlap is due to symptoms found in both disorders, rather than an overlapping etiology,” said first author Sabrina Darrow, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at UCSF.

“Our results suggest that although autism diagnoses were higher in individuals with Tourette’s, some of the increase may be due to autism-like symptoms, especially repetitive behaviors that are more strongly related to obsessive-compulsive disorder.”

The findings show that the highest scores on the Social Responsiveness Scale (which met autism criteria) were found in participants with Tourette’s and either OCD or ADHD. In addition, among those with Tourette’s who met the cutoff for autism, 83 percent also met criteria for OCD. The researchers note that the high scores were especially prominent in the part of the autism test that measures restrictive interests and repetitive behavior.

An important finding was the wide discrepancy between children and adults with Tourette’s who met the diagnostic criteria for autism. Tourette’s is usually diagnosed between the ages of 3 and 9; symptoms most often peak in the early teens and start to abate in the early 20s, with continued improvement in early adulthood.

“Children were more than twice as likely to meet the cutoff than adults, indicating that as tics recede, so do symptoms of autism. In contrast, autism is usually lifelong,” said Darrow.

“Previous studies have shown that children with mood and anxiety disorders also have higher rates of autism symptoms, based on the Social Responsiveness Scale,” said senior author Carol Mathews, M.D., who did the research while a professor of psychiatry at UCSF. She currently is adjunct professor of psychiatry at UCSF and professor of psychiatry at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

“This suggests that some of the increase may reflect underlying psychiatric impairment rather than being specific for autism. Some of the children in the study probably have autism, others have symptoms that mimic autism, but are not really due to autism. These symptoms are called phenocopies.”

Source: University of California San Francisco

Selfless Heroism Can Cost Lives in Emergencies

14 hours 25 min ago

Putting others first can cost lives in emergencies, according to a new study.

The study, which used computer modeling of a flooded subway station, found overall survival rates were substantially higher when strong people in a 30-member group reached safety themselves before trying to help weaker people.

“Foolhardiness is not a good strategy for rescuing,” said Eishiro Higo, a civil engineering Ph.D. candidate at the University of Waterloo in Canada, who led the research. “In very critical situations, we have to be kind of selfish, but we can still help others if we have proper equipment and proper strategies.”

The study showed that when strong members try to help weak members before they are secure themselves, both are dragged down and the group as a whole suffers.

For the study, Higo and his colleagues built a two-dimensional computer model of an actual three-level underground space in Kyoto, Japan, that consists of a subway platform, a parking garage, and a shopping mall.

The model simulates severe flooding from a nearby river, with a mix of adults and senior citizens who must reach safety via staircases from the subway platform level to the surface.

Higo repeatedly ran the model using three different evacuation strategies: One in which people only worried about themselves; one in which people immediately worked together as a group; and one in which those capable of saving themselves reached a safe place before trying to save others using a rope.

In most life-and-death scenarios when variables such as the ratio of adults to seniors were adjusted, the rope strategy resulted in the highest overall survival rate, according to Higo.

In a typical scenario that assumed evacuation efforts beginning at a particular point in time, 12 of 30 people survived using the rope strategy, while there were just five survivors using either of the other two strategies.

“We have to identify what is brave and what is reckless,” said Higo. “Helping people from a safe location is still good behavior and the result is actually much better.”

Crucial to the success of the rope strategy, however, was the availability of simple tools for use by rescuers. Design features, including handrails and raised areas on stairs for evacuees to brace themselves or rest, also markedly increased the chances of survival, he reported.

An extension of work he did for his master’s degree at Kyoto University before coming to Waterloo, his research was motivated by the earthquake and tsunami that devastated east Japan in 2011.

He said he hopes his findings stimulate discussion and lead to the inclusion of relatively inexpensive disaster preparedness features, such as ropes and resting areas, in public spaces.

The study was published in the journal Expert Systems with Applications.

Source: University of Waterloo

Authenticity Best Way to Land a New Job — If You’re a Top Candidate

15 hours 11 min ago

A new study shows that relaxing at job interviews and just being yourself is the key to landing that new job — with one caveat: If you are good at what you do.

The study, from researchers at the University College London, Bocconi University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and London Business School, found that high-quality candidates who present themselves accurately during the interview process significantly increase the likelihood of receiving a job offer.

“People are often encouraged to only present the best aspects of themselves at interview so they appear more attractive to employers, but what we’ve found is that high-quality candidates — the top 10 percent — fare much better when they present who they really are,” said Dr. Sun Young Lee of the University College London School of Management. “Unfortunately, the same isn’t true for poorer quality candidates who can actually damage their chances of being offered the job by being more authentic.”

The research focused on the concept of “self-verification,” which refers to a person’s drive to be known and understood by others according to their firmly held beliefs and feelings about themselves.

Previously self-verifying behavior was known to positively influence outcomes that unfold over time, such as the process of integrating into a new organization.

The new research shows that self-verification can have important effects in short-term interpersonal interactions as well, such as in the hiring process.

“In a job interview, we often try to present ourselves as perfect,” said lead author, Dr. Celia Moore of Bocconi University. “Our study proves this instinct wrong. Interviewers perceive an overly polished self-representation as inauthentic and potentially misrepresentative. But ultimately, if you are a high-quality candidate, you can be yourself on the job market. You can be honest and authentic. And, if you are, you will be more likely to get a job.”

The researchers conducted three studies: Two field studies looking at the importance of self-verification for groups of professionals applying for different jobs, and a third experimental study testing the mechanism behind the effects observed.

In the two field studies, candidates reported their self-verification drive prior to job interviews, and their quality was evaluated in face-to-face interviews. The results of the studies were normalized for gender, age, and race, the researchers noted.

The first study investigated a sample of 1,240 teachers from around the globe who applied for jobs in the U.S. The candidates that had been evaluated as high quality had a 51 percent likelihood of receiving a job, but this increased to 73 percent for those who also had a strong drive to self-verify.

The second study replicated this effect in a radically different sample by assessing 333 lawyers applying for positions in a branch of the U.S. military. For this group, high quality candidates increased their chances of receiving a job offer five-fold, from three percent to 17 percent, if they also had a strong drive to self-verify.

This effect was only seen in high-quality candidates, and for those rated as low-quality, the drive to self-verify weakened their position, the study found.

The third study was designed to test the mechanism behind this effect. For this, the researchers surveyed 300 people on their self-verification striving and selected those who were extremely high and extremely low in the distribution. The individuals participated in a mock job interview, which were then transcribed and submitted to text analysis.

This revealed differences in candidates’ language use as a function of their self-verification drive. People with a strong self-verification drive communicated in a more fluid way about themselves, and were ultimately perceived as more authentic and less misrepresentative, the researchers discovered.

These perceptions ultimately explain why high-self-verifying candidate can flourish on the job market, the researchers concluded.

The study was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Source: University College London

As Summer Heats Up, Many Turn Moody and Less Helpful

15 hours 55 min ago

New research has found that when it’s uncomfortably hot, we’re less likely to be helpful or “prosocial.”

Published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, the three-part study helps to explain how and through what mechanisms temperature influences individual helping.

For part one of the study, associate professor Dr. Liuba Belkin of Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and Dr. Maryam Kouchaki, assistant professor at Northwestern University in Illinois, used data provided by a large Russian retail chain to analyze differences in individual behavior under hot versus normal temperature conditions.

Clerks working in an uncomfortably hot environment, according to the data, were 50 percent less likely to engage in prosocial behaviors, such as volunteering to help customers, listening actively and making suggestions.

“In part two of the study — a randomized online experiment —  we asked a paid online panel to just recall or imagine situations where they were uncomfortably hot and then, after measuring their feelings and perceptions and a number of survey questions, asked them to help with another survey for free,” Belkin said.

“Participants weren’t even experiencing heat at the moment and we still found that, compared to the control group, the participants were more fatigued, which reduced their positive affect and, ultimately, prosocial behavior.”

Only 34 percent of the participants who were asked to recall a time when they were uncomfortably hot were willing to help with the free survey, compared to 76 percent in the control group, the researchers reported.

In part three of the study, the researchers found that even slight fluctuations in temperature changed behavior.

Belkin chose students in two sections of a college management course as subjects for a field experiment. One group sat in a lecture in a room that was uncomfortably warm, while the other group sat in an air conditioned room. She then asked the students to answer a series of questions and fill out a survey “for a non-profit organization that serves children and underprivileged individuals in the local community.”

Only 64 percent in the hotter room agreed to answer at least one question, while in the cooler room, 95 percent did so, she said.

She added that, interestingly, even those who agreed to help in the hotter room helped less, answering, on average, six questions, almost six times less than the number of questions answered by the students in the cooler room, who answered an average of 35 questions.

Source: Lehigh University

Rare Genetic Variants Increase Risk for Tourette Syndrome

Sat, 06/24/2017 - 8:30am

An international team of 57 scientists from 11 countries has identified the first definitive risk genes for Tourette syndrome (TS), a complex neuropsychiatric disorder.

The breakthrough came when researchers focused on a relatively new area of genomics research that involves looking at the entire genome, rather than searching for a particular gene, said Dr. Peristera Paschou, Purdue University associate biology professor.

“Most times we focus on a mutation of a single base pair, which are the building blocks of DNA, and look for a mutation. But in recent years we’ve realized that there is another type of variation of the human genome,” said Paschou.

Tourette syndrome, which affects about one in 100 people, is characterized by one or more physical tics, such as throat clearing, coughing, eye blinking, or facial movements, along with at least one involuntary phonic or verbal tic.

People with TS also are more likely to have additional neuropsychiatric disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and appear to be at greater risk for anxiety, major depression or autism spectrum disorders.

Because of the large variety of symptoms and related conditions, Tourette Syndrome is often a difficult condition to identify and track.

In recent years, however, scientists have been investigating how often short sections of genes are repeated through the entire genome, how these repetitions (called copy number variants) might vary among individuals, and whether they have an effect on health.

“These variations may involve a large part of the DNA sequence and may even include whole genes. We have only very recently begun to understand how copy number variation may relate to disease,” said Paschou.

“In the case of this research on Tourette Syndrome, we scanned the entire genome, and through physical analysis, we were able to identify where this variation lies. We rarely find variants that are associated at such a high level. This is why this is such a big breakthrough.”

Dr. Jeremiah Scharf, of the Psychiatric & Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit in the Massachusetts General Hospital Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology and the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Genomic Medicine, co-senior author of the report, says this is a significant finding.

“The challenge of recognizing that Tourette Syndrome is not a single gene disorder, and that a stringent statistical certainty is required in order to declare a gene to be significantly associated with it, has been our long-term aim,” he said.

“We believe that what sets our study apart from prior studies is that the two genes we have identified both surpassed the stringent threshold of ‘genome-wide significance,’ and so, represent the first two definitive Tourette Syndrome susceptibility genes.”

The research will help speed new and more effective treatments for Tourette’s as well as other disorders.

“Tourette Syndrome has long been considered a model disorder to study the parts of the brain that function at the intersection of our traditional concepts of neurology and psychiatry,” Scharf says.

“These first two definitive genes for Tourette Syndrome give us strong footholds in our efforts to understand the biology of this disease, and future studies of how these genes work both in health and disease may lead to discoveries that are more broadly relevant to neuropsychiatric disorders in general.”

Although this research was the largest ever conducted on Tourette Syndrome, Paschou says a much larger study is already being planned.

“We are hopeful that in the next two years we will put together a sample of 12,000 patients, which is something that those of us who work in this field could not have imagined before,” she said.

Paschou says that the success of the collaboration is due not just to the researchers, but also to the patients and their families. “It was such a great contribution for the patients and their families to participate in this study. Without them studies like this could not exist.”

The new findings are published in the journal Neuron.

Source: Purdue University

Storytelling Skills of Black Preschoolers Can Aid in Reading

Sat, 06/24/2017 - 7:30am

Research has shown that historical and cultural factors help foster strong oral storytelling skills among young African-American children and that children with stronger storytelling skills tend to develop into better readers. Now, in a new study, researchers wanted to investigate whether gender also plays a role in this link.

They discovered that while girls tend to tell more coherent and organized stories in preschool, the oral storytelling skills of boys are more directly linked to how quickly their reading scores increase from first through sixth grade.

“Knowing how to tell a clear and coherent story is an important skill for helping young children to develop strong reading skills, which, in turn, can help them to be successful across a number of different subjects in school,” said researcher Dr. Nicole Gardner-Neblett from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Two years ago, Gardner-Neblett conducted a study that was the first to show an association between African-American preschoolers’ storytelling abilities and their early reading skills in kindergarten. That study found a link between storytelling and reading only for the African-American children, from households across income levels, but not for any other demographic group.

Significant differences in reading achievement still exist between black and white elementary school children, as does a gender gap in reading outcomes, with girls outperforming boys. Because of both disparities in achievement, Gardner-Neblett and FPG researcher John Sideris wanted to investigate whether gender plays a role in the link between African American children’s storytelling skills and reading development.

“We asked preschoolers to tell a story from a wordless picture book and analyzed their skill in structuring and organizing the story,” said Gardner-Neblett. “We examined how boys’ and girls’ storytelling skills as preschoolers predicted their scores on a reading achievement test for each grade, from first through sixth.”

They discovered that the link between children’s storytelling skills and reading achievement was more complex than expected.

“We found that oral storytelling is linked to different trajectories for boys and girls,” said Sideris. “Boys’ storytelling skills had an effect on how quickly their reading scores increased from first through sixth grade. The stronger the boys’ storytelling skills as preschoolers, the faster their reading scores increased over time.”

And while preschool girls initially told more coherent and organized stories than their male counterparts, the impact of their storytelling skills on future reading levels was less pronounced.

“Girls’ storytelling skills appeared most important for their reading achievement during the first years of school,” she added. “In contrast to the boys, storytelling skills were less important over time for the girls and unrelated to how fast their reading scores increased.”

While several studies have looked at factors accounting for low reading achievement, few have investigated the strengths associated with successful reading outcomes among African-American children.

According to the researchers, educators and parents should take advantage of this cultural strength to support reading development.

“Expanding skills for nurturing children’s reading development beyond book reading to include oral storytelling could be crucial for African-American children,” Gardner-Neblett said. “This could help to provide a strong foundation for success — and not only for how well boys and girls do in school, but in life.”

Source: Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute

Playing Video Games Can Change your Brain

Sat, 06/24/2017 - 6:45am

A new review of more than 100 studies shows that playing video games can cause changes in the regions of the brain responsible for attention and visuospatial skills and make them more efficient.

Researchers also looked at studies exploring brain regions associated with the reward system, and how these are related to video game addiction.

“Games have sometimes been praised or demonized, often without real data backing up those claims. Moreover, gaming is a popular activity, so everyone seems to have strong opinions on the topic,” said Marc Palaus, first author on the review, recently published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Palaus and his colleagues at the Cognitive NeuroLab at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain, wanted to see if any trends had emerged from the research to date on how video games affect the structure and activity of our brains. To do this, they collected the results from 116 scientific studies, 22 of which looked at structural changes in the brain and 100 that looked at changes in brain functionality and/or behavior.

The studies show that playing video games can change how our brains perform and even their structure.

For example, playing video games affects our attention, and some studies found that gamers show improvements in several types of attention, such as sustained attention or selective attention. The brain regions involved in attention are also more efficient in gamers and require less activation to sustain attention on demanding tasks, according to researchers.

There is also evidence that video games can increase the size and efficiency of brain regions related to visuospatial skills. For example, the right hippocampus was enlarged in both long-term gamers and volunteers following a video game training program, researchers noted.

Video games can also be addictive. Researchers have found functional and structural changes in the neural reward system in gaming addicts, in part by exposing them to gaming cues that cause cravings and monitoring their neural responses. These neural changes are basically the same as those seen in other addictive disorders, according to the researchers.

But what do all these brain changes mean?

“We focused on how the brain reacts to video game exposure, but these effects do not always translate to real-life changes,” Palaus said. “As video games are still quite new, the research into their effects is still in its infancy. For example, we are still working out what aspects of games affect which brain regions and how.”

However, he said it is likely that video games have both positive aspects — on attention, visual and motor skills — and negative aspects such as the risk of addiction.

“It is essential we embrace this complexity,” he concluded.

Source: Frontiers

Social Media Tool Designed to Detect Sarcasm

Sat, 06/24/2017 - 6:00am

People with autism spectrum disorder often have trouble detecting sarcasm and irony, particularly when it is written in text. Now researchers have developed a system, called Sarcasm SIGN (sarcasm Sentimental Interpretation GeNerator), that can interpret sarcastic statements in social media.

Automatic identification and analysis of sentiment — human feeling or meaning — in text is a very challenging subject being explored by researchers worldwide, but so far none have developed an accurate text-translating system.

“There are a lot of systems designed to identify sarcasm, but this is the first that is able to interpret sarcasm in written text,” said graduate student Lotam Peled, who developed the system under the guidance of Assistant Professor Roi Reichart at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management.

“We hope in the future, it will help people with autism and Asperger’s, who have difficulty interpreting sarcasm, irony, and humor.”

Based on machine translation, the new tool is able to turn sarcastic sentences into honest (non-sarcastic) ones. It will, for example, turn a sarcastic sentence such as, “The new ‘Fast and Furious’ movie is awesome. #sarcasm” into the honest sentence, “The new ‘Fast and Furious’ movie is terrible.”

Despite the vast development in this field, and the successes of sentiment analysis applications on “social media intelligence,” existing applications do not know how to interpret sarcasm, where the writer writes the opposite of what (s)he actually means.

In order to teach the system to how to interpret sarcasm accurately, the researchers compiled a database of 3,000 sarcastic tweets that were tagged with #sarcasm, where each tweet was interpreted into a non-sarcastic expression by five human experts.

The system was also trained to recognize words with strong sarcastic sentiments — for example, the word “best” in the tweet, “best day ever” — and to replace them with strong words that reveal the true meaning of the text.

The results were analyzed by a number of (human) judges, who gave its interpretations high scores of fluency and adequacy, agreeing that in most cases it produced a semantically and linguistically correct sentence.

Sentiment identification could be used in social, commercial, and other applications to improve communication between people and computers, and between social media users.

Source: American Technion Society

Work Stress Can Lead to Overeating But Good Sleep Can Provide Buffer

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 7:45am

Insightful new research confirms that work stress can indeed lead to an unhealthy diet. However, investigators also discovered that a good night’s sleep can help improve healthy habits.

Michigan State (MSU) researchers explain that the study is one of the first to investigate how psychological experiences at work shape eating behaviors.

Investigators discovered work day stress can lead to overeating and unhealthy food choices at dinnertime. But, they also found that a good night’s sleep can serve as a protecting factor between job stress and unhealthy eating in the evening.

The study appears online in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

“We found that employees who have a stressful workday tend to bring their negative feelings from the workplace to the dinner table, as manifested in eating more than usual and opting for more junk food instead of healthy food,” said Chu-Hsiang “Daisy” Chang, MSU associate professor of psychology and study co-author.

“However, another key finding showed how sleep helped people deal with their stressful eating after work,” she added.

“When workers slept better the night before, they tended to eat better when they experienced stress the next day.”

The research involved two studies of 235 total workers in China.

One study dealt with information-technology employees who regularly experienced high workload and felt there was never enough time in the workday. The second study involved call-center workers who often got stressed from having to deal with rude and demanding customers.

In both cases, workday stress was linked to employees’ negative mood while on the job, which in turn was linked to unhealthy eating in the evening, said Yihao Liu, co-author and assistant professor at the University of Illinois.

The study proposed two potential explanations, Liu said.

“First, eating is sometimes used as an activity to relieve and regulate one’s negative mood, because individuals instinctually avoid aversive feelings and approach desire feelings,” he said.

“Second, unhealthy eating can also be a consequence of diminished self-control. When feeling stressed out by work, individuals usually experience inadequacy in exerting effective control over their cognitions and behaviors to be aligned with personal goals and social norms.”

Chang said the finding that sleep protects against unhealthy eating following workday stress shows how the health behaviors are related.

“A good night’s sleep can make workers replenished and feel vigorous again, which may make them better able to deal with stress at work the next day and less vulnerable to unhealthy eating,” she said.

To address the problem, companies should emphasize the importance of health management for their employees and consider sleep-awareness training and flexible scheduling.

Companies should also reconsider the value of food-related job perks, which have become very common.

“Food-related perks may only serve as temporary mood-altering remedies for stressed employees,” Chang said, “and failure to address the sources of the work stress may have potential long-term detrimental effects on employee health.”

Source: Michigan State University

Researchers Learn How Ketamine Acts on the Brain

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 7:00am

Ketamine is a medication mainly used for starting and maintaining anesthesia although it has also been used to provide rapid relief of treatment resistant depression.

The ability to rapidly stabilize severely depressed patients has been demonstrated in several studies and has led researchers to search for the exact mechanism by which ketamine works.

The effort is important as ketamine is sometimes illicitly used for its psychedelic properties and could also impede memory and other brain functions.

The multiple actions of ketamine has spurred scientists to identify new drugs that would safely replicate its antidepressant response without the unwanted side effects.

Now, emerging research from University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center scientists has identified a key protein that helps trigger ketamine’s rapid antidepressant effects in the brain. This is a crucial step to developing alternative treatments to the controversial drug being dispensed in a growing number of clinics across the country.

Researchers from the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute have now answered a question vital to guiding future research: What proteins in the brain does ketamine target to achieve its effects?

“Now that we have a target in place, we can study the pathway and develop drugs that safely induce the antidepressant effect,” said Dr. Lisa Monteggia, Professor of Neuroscience at UT Southwestern’s O’Donnell Brain Institute.

The study published in Nature shows that ketamine blocks a protein responsible for a range of normal brain functions. The blocking of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor creates the initial antidepressant reaction, and a metabolite of ketamine is responsible for extending the duration of the effect.

The blocking of the receptor also induces many of ketamine’s hallucinogenic responses. The drug — used for decades as an anesthetic — can distort the senses and impair coordination.

But if taken with proper medical care, ketamine may help severely depressed or suicidal patients in need of a quick, effective treatment, Dr. Monteggia said.

Studies have shown ketamine can stabilize patients within a couple of hours, compared to other antidepressants that often take a few weeks to produce a response — if a response is induced at all.

“Patients are demanding ketamine, and they are willing to take the risk of potential side effects just to feel better,” Dr. Monteggia said.

“This demand is overriding all the questions we still have about ketamine. How often can you have an infusion? How long can it last? There are a lot of aspects regarding how ketamine acts that are still unclear.”

Researchers will work to answer these questions as they plan two clinical trials with ketamine, including an effort to administer the drug through a nasal spray as opposed to intravenous infusions.

The results of these trials will have major implications for the millions of depressed patients seeking help, in particular those who have yet to find a medication that works.

A major national study UT Southwestern led more than a decade ago (STAR*D) yielded insight into the prevalence of the problem: Up to a third of depressed patients don’t improve upon taking their first medication, and about 40 percent of people who start taking antidepressants stop taking them within three months.

Ketamine, due to the potential side effects, is mainly being explored as a treatment only after other antidepressants have failed. But for patients on the brink of giving up, waiting weeks to months to find the right therapy may not be an option.

“Ketamine opens the door to understanding how to achieve rapid action and to stabilize people quickly. Because the (NMDA) receptor that is the target of ketamine is not involved in how other classical serotonin-based antidepressants work, our study opens up a new avenue of drug discovery,” said Dr. Monteggia.

Source: UT-Southwestern

Moderate-Intensity Exercise to Reduce Alzheimer Risk

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 6:15am

New research suggests moderate intensity exercise is best format of physical activity to help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

University of Wisconsin-Madison investigators found that for people at risk for Alzheimer’s, moderate-intensity exercise is better than light-intensity because the intensity level is linked to healthier patterns of glucose metabolism in their brain.

The investigation was led by senior author Dr. Ozioma Okonkwo, an assistant professor of medicine at the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. First author Ryan Dougherty is a graduate student studying under the direction of Dr. Dane B. Cook, professor of kinesiology and a co-author of the study, and Dr. Okonkwo.

The research involved 93 members of the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention (WRAP), which with more than 1,500 registrants is the largest parental history Alzheimer’s risk study group in the world.

Investigators used accelerometers to measure the daily physical activity of participants, all of whom are in late middle-age and at high genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease, but presently show no cognitive impairment.

Activity levels were measured for one week, quantified, and analyzed. This approach allowed scientists to determine the amount of time each subject spent engaged in light, moderate, and vigorous levels of physical activity.

Light physical activity is equivalent to walking slowly, while moderate is equivalent to a brisk walk and vigorous a strenuous run. Data on the intensities of physical activity were then statistically analyzed to determine how they corresponded with glucose metabolism.

Glucose metabolism is a measure of neuronal (nerve cell) health and activity in areas of the brain known to have depressed glucose metabolism in people with Alzheimer’s disease. To measure brain glucose metabolism, researchers used a specialized imaging technique called 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET).

Researchers discovered moderate physical activity was associated with healthier (greater levels of) glucose metabolism in all brain regions analyzed.

Interestingly, investigators noted a step-wise benefit: subjects who spent at least 68 minutes per day engaged in moderate physical activity showed better glucose metabolism profiles than those who spent less time.

“This study has implications for guiding exercise ‘prescriptions’ that could help protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dougherty.

“While many people become discouraged about Alzheimer’s disease because they feel there’s little they can do to protect against it, these results suggest that engaging in moderate physical activity may slow down the progression of the disease.”

“Seeing a quantifiable connection between moderate physical activity and brain health is an exciting first step,” said Okonkwo.

He explained that ongoing research is focusing on better elucidating the neuroprotective effect of exercise against Alzheimer’s disease.

Source: University of Wisconsin/EurekAlert
 
Photo: People at risk for Alzheimer’s disease who do more moderate-intensity physical activity, but not light-intensity physical activity, are more likely to have healthy patterns of glucose metabolism in their brain, according to a new UW-Madison study. Credit: University of Wisconsin-Madison.

How to Make Memories Stick

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 5:30am

Rather than repeat something over and over in an effort to memorize it long-term, it is better to relate the new information to something meaningful, according to a new study at Baycrest Health Sciences.

For example, if a new acquaintance introduces himself as Fred, instead of silently repeating his name to make it stick, you could purposefully associate him with your favorite childhood cartoon character: Fred Flintstone. Most likely you won’t forget it later.

While previous research has shown the benefits of repetition to create short-term memories, the new findings suggest that using the word’s meaning will help “transfer” memories from the short-term to the long-term, says Dr. Jed Meltzer, lead author and neurorehabilitation scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute.

This finding is consistent with the strategies used by the world’s top memory champions, who create stories rich with meaning to remember random information, such as the order of a deck of cards.

“When we are learning new information, our brain has two different ways to remember the material for a short period of time, either by mentally rehearsing the sounds of the words or thinking about the meaning of the words,” says Meltzer.

“Both strategies create good short-term memory, but focusing on the meaning is more effective for retaining the information later on. Here’s a case where working harder does not mean better.”

During the study, the researchers were able to pinpoint the different parts of the brain involved in creating the two types of short-term memories.

“This finding shows that there are multiple brain mechanisms supporting short-term memory, whether it’s remembering information based on sound or meaning,” says Meltzer, who is also a psychology professor at the University of Toronto.

“When people have brain damage from stroke or dementia, one of the mechanisms may be disrupted. People could learn to compensate for this by relying on an alternate method to form short-term memories.”

For example, people who have trouble remembering things could carry a pad and rehearse the information until they have a chance to write it down, he adds.

For the study, the researchers recorded the brain waves of 25 healthy adults as they listened to sentences and word lists. Participants were asked to hold the information in their short-term memory over several seconds, and then recite it back, while their brain waves were recorded.

Participants were then taken to a testing room to see if they could recall the information they had heard earlier. Through the brain scans, researchers identified brain activity related to memorizing through sound and meaning.

Next, Meltzer plans to use these findings to explore targeted brain stimulation that could boost the short-term memory of stroke patients.

The findings are published in the journal NeuroImage.

Source: Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care

Teens’ Poor Body Image Tied to More Drinking, Smoking

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 7:45am

New research finds that the way a teen feels about their appearance can significantly impact their health and wellness.

In the study, Dr. Virginia Ramseyer Winter, a body image expert and an assistant professor in the University of Missouri’s School of Social Work, found negative body image is associated with increased tobacco and alcohol use, with implications for both young men and women.

The finding supports prior work that discovered people with negative body image are more likely to develop eating disorders and are more likely to suffer from depression and low self-esteem.

“We know alcohol and tobacco can have detrimental health effects, especially for teenagers,” Ramseyer Winter said.

“I wanted to see if the perception of being overweight and negative body image leads to engaging in unhealthy or risky substance use behaviors. Understanding the relationship means that interventions and policies aimed at improving body image among teenage populations might improve overall health.”

Ramseyer Winter and her co-authors, Andrea Kennedy and Elizabeth O’Neill, used data from a national survey of American teenagers to determine the associations between perceived size and weight, perceived attractiveness, and levels of alcohol and tobacco use.

Their study appears in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Substance Abuse. Kennedy is a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California and O’Neill is a doctoral candidate at the University of Kansas.

The researchers discovered that perceived size and attractiveness were significantly related to substance use. Adolescent girls who perceived their body size to be too fat were more likely to use alcohol and tobacco.

Boys who thought they were too skinny were more likely to smoke, and boys who considered themselves fat were more likely to binge drink.

“While poor body image disproportionately affects females, our findings indicate that body image also impacts young males,” Ramseyer Winter said.

“For example, it’s possible that boys who identified their bodies as too thin use tobacco to maintain body size, putting their health at risk.”

In addition to body size, the researchers looked at the connection between perceived attractiveness and substance use.

Investigators discovered girls who thought they were not at all good-looking were more likely to smoke. Conversely, girls who thought they were very good-looking were more likely to binge drink.

Investigators believe this occurs because attractiveness is often associated with popularity, which is related to increased alcohol use.

To improve body image awareness, Ramseyer Winter suggested that parents, schools and health providers need to be aware of body shaming language and correct such behavior to help children identify with positive body image messages.

Body shaming language can affect teenagers who have both positive and negative perceptions of themselves.

Source: University of Missouri

Biking to Work Can Help Reduce Stress

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 7:00am

A new study finds that in addition to cardiovascular and physical health benefits, pedaling to work can help reduce stress and improve work performance.

Researchers from Concordia’s John Molson School of Business (JMSB) compared how different modes of commuting — cycling, driving a car, and taking public transport — affected stress and mood at work.

Drs. Stéphane Brutus and Alexandra Panaccio, and Roshan Javadian, M.Sc., discovered cycling to work is a good way to have a good day. “Employees who cycled to work showed significantly lower levels of stress within the first 45 minutes of work than those who traveled by car,” said Brutus, the lead author.

Interestingly, the study did not find that riding to work made any difference on mood.

The research appears the International Journal of Workplace Health Management.

For the study, investigators collected data from 123 employees at Autodesk, an information technology company in Old Montreal, using a web-based survey. Respondents replied to questions about their mood, perceived commuting stress, and mode of travel.

The survey differentiated between perceived stress and mood, a more transient state affected by personality traits and emotions.

The study only assessed answers from respondents who had completed the questionnaire within 45 minutes of arriving at work. This was done to get a more “in-the-moment” assessment of employees’ stress and mood.

Brutus notes that this time specification was the study’s major innovation.

“Recent research has shown that early morning stress and mood are strong predictors of their effect later in the day,” he said. “They can shape how subsequent events are perceived, interpreted, and acted upon for the rest of the day.”

He adds that the time specification ensured a more precise picture of stress upon arrival at work. Retrospective assessments can be colored by stressors that occur later in the workday.

“There are relatively few studies that compare the affective experiences of cyclists with those of car and public transport users,” said Brutus, an avid cyclist himself. “Our study was an attempt to address that gap.”

At the same time, the team confirmed previous research that found that cyclists perceived their commute as being less stressful than those who traveled by car.

Cycling has been shown to be a relatively inexpensive mode of transportation and a good form of physical activity.

A 2015 study from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy found that cycling could help reduce CO2 emissions from urban passenger transportation by 11 percent by 2050. It could also save society US $24 trillion globally between 2015 and 2050.

Brutus pointed out that only around six percent of Americans or Canadians cycled to work, although the number is growing. However, the countries still significantly lag behind many European countries.

There is potential for public policymakers to seize on this, he said.

“With growing concerns about traffic congestion and pollution, governments are increasingly promoting non-motorized alternative modes of transport, such as walking and cycling. I can only hope that further studies will follow our lead and develop more precise and deliberate research into this phenomenon.”

Source: Concordia University

Brain Inflammation Linked to OCD

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 6:15am

A new Canadian brain imaging study finds that brain inflammation is more than 30 percent higher in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) than in people without the condition.

Researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto believe the finding may represent one of the biggest breakthroughs in understanding the biology of OCD, and may lead to the development of new treatments.

OCD is an anxiety disorder which can be debilitating for people who experience it. About one to two per cent of adolescents and adults suffer from OCD, an anxiety disorder in which people have intrusive or worrisome thoughts that recur and can be hard to ignore.

“Our research showed a strong relationship between brain inflammation and OCD, particularly in the parts of the brain known to function differently in OCD,” said Dr. Jeffrey Meyer, senior author of the study and Head of the Neuroimaging Program in Mood & Anxiety in CAMH’s Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute.

“This finding represents one of the biggest breakthroughs in understanding the biology of OCD, and may lead to the development of new treatments.”

Inflammation or swelling is the body’s response to infection or injury, and helps the body to heal. But, in some cases, this immune-system response can also be harmful, Meyer said.

Dampening the harmful effects of inflammation and promoting its curative effects, through new medications or other innovative approaches, could prove to be a new way to treat OCD.

In an earlier study, Meyer discovered that brain inflammation is elevated in people with depression, an illness that can go hand in hand with OCD in some people.

A novel direction for developing treatments is important, since current medications don’t work for nearly one in three people with OCD.

The study included 20 people with OCD and a comparison group of 20 people without the disorder. Doctoral student Sophia Attwells was first author of the study. The researchers used a type of brain imaging called positron emission tomography (PET) that was adapted with special technology at CAMH to see inflammation in the brain.

A chemical dye measured the activity of immune cells called microglia, which are active in inflammation, in six brain areas that play a role in OCD. In people with OCD, inflammation was 32 percent higher on average in these regions.

Inflammation was greater in some people with OCD as compared to others, which could reflect variability in the biology of the illness.

Additional investigations are under way to find low-cost blood markers and symptom measures that could identify which individuals with OCD have the greatest level of inflammation and could benefit the most from treatment targeting inflammation.

Another notable finding from the current study — a connection between resisting compulsions and brain inflammation — provides one indicator. At least nine out of 10 people with OCD carry out compulsions, the actions or rituals that people do to try to reduce their obsessions.

In the study, people who experienced the greatest stress or anxiety when they tried to avoid acting out their compulsions also had the highest levels of inflammation in one brain area. This stress response could also help pinpoint who may best benefit from this type of treatment.

The discovery opens different options for developing treatments.

“Medications developed to target brain inflammation in other disorders could be useful in treating OCD,” said Meyer.

“Work needs to be done to uncover the specific factors that contribute to brain inflammation, but finding a way to reduce inflammation’s harmful effects and increase its helpful effects could enable us to develop a new treatment much more quickly.”

Study findings appear in JAMA Psychiatry.

Source: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Hiding True Self at Work Reduces Job Satisfaction, Sense of Belonging

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 5:30am

Hiding your true self at work can harm your career and reduce your sense of belonging among co-workers, according to a new study led by the University of Exeter in England.

Researchers investigated commonly stigmatized traits — being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT), or having a history of poverty or mental or physical illness. They discovered that hiding such characteristics from coworkers resulted in lower self-esteem, job satisfaction, and commitment at work.

“People may choose to conceal stigmatized identities because they want to be accepted, but in fact doing so reduces feelings of belonging,” said Professor Manuela Barreto at the University of Exeter. “When someone conceals their true identity, their social interactions suffer, and this has an impact not just on the individual but also on the organisation they work for.”

The findings are based on studies conducted in the Netherlands and the U.S.

In one experiment, participants were encouraged to remember a time when they either concealed or revealed a stigmatized characteristic about themselves. In another experiment, participants were presented with fictional scenarios that either involved hiding or revealing their stigmatized identity. In both experiments, participants were asked how they would feel after hiding or revealing the stigmatized characteristic.

“Our findings suggest that openness about one’s identity is often beneficial for stigmatized individuals, the stigmatized group and their workplace,” said Barreto.

However, the researchers recognize that not everyone can be open in all contexts.

“It is clear that there are times when revealing a stigmatized identity can be very costly,” said Dr. Anna Newheiser of the University at Albany, SUNY (State University of New York). “Those effects are very real and worth avoiding in certain circumstances, but it is important to realize that there is also a cost to hiding your true self.”

The paper touches on the “hidden ramifications of prejudice,” which harm both individuals and organizations.

“What we need are environments where people don’t need to hide — inclusive environments where people don’t have to make a choice between being liked and being authentic,” said Barreto. “Workplaces that push individuals to hide their differences do not erase difference — they simply encourage masking and concealment of diversity.

“Given that identity concealment is by nature an invisible act, its social and organizational costs may also be difficult to detect, explain and correct.”

The study is published in the Journal of Social Issues.

Source: University of Exeter

Night Owls May Find It Harder to Control OCD

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 7:45am

New research finds the time a person goes to bed can influence their perceived ability to control obsessive thoughts.

Investigators from Binghamton University, State University of New York, monitored 20 individuals diagnosed with OCD and 10 endorsing sub-threshold OCD symptoms during one week of sleep.

The research was led by Dr. Meredith E. Coles and former graduate student Jessica Schubert (now at University of Michigan Medical School).

Participants completed sleep diaries and daily ratings of perceived degree of control over obsessive thoughts and ritualized behaviors.

The researchers found that previous night’s bedtime significantly predicted participants’ perceived ability to control their obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior on the subsequent day.

“We’re really interested in how this kind of unusual timing of sleep might affect cognitive functioning,” said Schubert.

“One possibility is impulse control. It might be that something about shifting the timing of your sleep might reduce your ability to control your thoughts and your behaviors, so it might make it more likely that you’re going to have a hard time dismissing intrusive thoughts characteristic of obsessions, and it might make it more difficult for you to refrain from compulsive behaviors that are designed to reduce the anxiety caused by obsessive thoughts.”

The average bedtime for participants in the study was around 12:30 a.m. Patients who met criteria for delayed sleep phase disorder, about 40 percent of the sample, went to bed around 3:00 a.m.

“I always knew you were supposed to get eight hours of sleep, but I was never told it matters when you do it,” said Coles.

“It’s been striking to me that this difference seems to be very specific to the circadian component of when you sleep. That we find that there are specific negative consequences of sleeping at the wrong times, that’s something to educate the public about.”

The researchers are interested in exploring this phenomenon further. Coles plans on collecting pilot data using lightboxes to shift people’s bedtimes.

“It’s one of our first efforts to actually shift their bedtimes and see if it reduces their OCD symptoms, and if this improves their ability to resist those intrusive thoughts and not develop compulsions in response to them.”

Source: Binghamton University

Adults with Separation Anxiety May Be Vulnerable to ‘Going Home’ Ads

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 7:00am

Adults who experience separation anxiety are more susceptible to marketing themes that play on emotions surrounding home life, according to a new study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.

Adult separation anxiety disorder (ASAD) is a mental health condition characterized by excessive anxiety in response to being separated from places or people to whom one has a strong emotional attachment. The lifetime incidence of ASAD in the United States is estimated to be 6.6 percent, but a much higher percentage may experience symptoms of the disorder.

The authors assert that consumer advertising regularly invokes the idea of home, citing recent Super Bowl ads by Jeep and Budweiser as examples.

They suggest that therapists discuss these matters with their ASAD patients so they are aware of their susceptibility to marketing themes around “going home,” as these types of ads can exacerbate symptoms and make ASD patients quite vulnerable to coercion.

“Importantly, our research suggests a vulnerability to persuasion among those with adult separation anxiety disorder symptoms that goes beyond simply the appeal of a product itself,” write Dr. Steve Posavac, E. Bronson Ingram Professor of Marketing at Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management and co-author and psychologist Dr. Heidi Posavac. “Featuring the concept of home as an advertising theme leads to more favorability towards the persuasive attempt.”

For the study, conducted at Vanderbilt Business’ Behavioral Research Lab, participants completed an ASAD questionnaire published by the American Psychiatric Institute. Later, they read an Internet advertisement for a fictitious airline: one version played upon a theme of “coming home to family,” the other promoted a message of “seeing new things.”

Participants who scored high in ASAD symptoms had more favorable attitudes toward the home-themed ad, while those with little to no symptoms offered no preference.

While the study findings may suggest an opportunity for marketers, the researchers caution that it may also reflect a threat for people who suffer from adult separation anxiety disorder. Should marketers be able to identify and target a subgroup of consumers with ASAD or ASAD symptoms, home-themed advertising might increase sales, but the impact on the consumers themselves might not be so positive.

“Whether in individual treatment sessions, or with a psychoeducational approach, individuals experiencing chronic adult separation anxiety may be well served by clinicians who help to inoculate them against the possibility of coming under undue influence by savvy marketers,” the authors write.

Source: Vanderbilt University

New Tool Helps Predict Cognitive Deficits in Parkinson’s

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 6:15am

Although Parkinson’s disease (PD) is typically thought of as a movement disorder, approximately 25 percent of patients also experience cognitive deficits.

A newly developed research tool may help predict a patient’s risk for developing dementia and could enable clinical trials aimed at finding treatments to prevent the cognitive effects of the disease.

Investigators at Harvard Medical School and the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital spearheaded development of the computer-based risk calculator.

The research appears in Lancet Neurology.

“By allowing clinical researchers to identify and select only patients at high risk for developing dementia, this tool could help in the design of ‘smarter’ trials that require a manageable number of participating patients,” said corresponding author Clemens Scherzer, M.D., head of the Neurogenomics Lab and Parkinson Personalized Medicine Program.

For the study, the research team combined data from 3,200 people with PD, representing more than 25,000 individual clinical assessments and evaluated seven known clinical and genetic risk factors associated with developing dementia.

From this information, they built the risk calculator that may predict the chance that an individual with PD will develop cognitive deficits.

“This study includes both genetic and clinical assessments from multiple groups of patients, and it represents a significant step forward in our ability to effectively model one of the most troublesome non-motor aspects of Parkinson’s disease,” said researcher Margaret Sutherland, Ph.D.

Currently available medications are effective in improving motor deficits caused by the disease. However, the loss of cognitive abilities severely affects an individual’s quality of life and independence.

One barrier to developing treatments for the cognitive effects of PD is the considerable variability among patients. As a result, researchers must enroll several hundred patients when designing clinical trials to test treatments.

Scherzer and team also noted that a patient’s education appeared to have a powerful impact on the risk of memory loss. The more years of formal education patients in the study had, the greater was their protection against cognitive decline.

“This fits with the theory that education might provide your brain with a ‘cognitive reserve,’ which is the capacity to potentially compensate for some of the disease-related effects,” said Scherzer.

“I hope researchers will take a closer look at this. It would be amazing, if this simple observation could be turned into a useful therapeutic intervention.”

Moving forward, Scherzer and his colleagues from the International Genetics of Parkinson’s Disease Progression (IGPP) Consortium plan to further improve the cognitive risk score calculator.

The team is scanning the genome of PD patients to hunt for new progression genes. Ultimately, it is their hope that the tool can be used in the clinic in addition to helping with clinical trial design. However, considerable research remains to be done before that will be possible.

One complication for the use of this calculator in the clinic is the lack of available treatments for PD-related cognitive deficits. Doctors face ethical issues concerning whether patients should be informed of their risk when there is little available to help them.

It is hoped that by improving clinical trial design, the risk calculator can first aid in the discovery of new PD treatments and determine which patients would benefit most from the new treatments.

“Prediction is the first step,” said Scherzer. “Prevention is the ultimate goal, preventing a dismal prognosis from ever happening.”

Source: Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Teaching Kids Mental Health Skills Can Ease Anxiety, Suicidal Thoughts

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 5:30am

A new Canadian pilot program designed to promote mental health skills in youth significantly lessened cases of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

University of Alberta researchers led the EMPATHY program in a local school district from 2013 to 2015. The program was offered to more than 6,000 youth in grades six through 12.

A follow-up study conducted 15 months after the program ended found the percentage of the total school population who were actively suicidal decreased from 4.4 percent to 2.8 percent.

Moreover, rates of anxiety, depression, and thoughts of self-harm also saw significant declines.

“With the school board’s active participation, we switched some of the health classes to mental health training and resiliency classes,” said Dr. Peter Silverstone, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Alberta.

“What this shows is that if you put this program into schools, you change kids fundamentally. And these changes last well over a year.”

Youth in middle school were offered courses in mental health training, while those in high school had access to professional help if they were identified as having severe depression or suicidal thoughts.

After first having their parents notified, the youth were offered supervised online interventions with trained therapists. If further help was needed, families were then referred to external specialists in mental health.

The program was introduced following a rash of suicides among youth in the Red Deer school district during the 2013-2014 school year.

Superintendent Stu Henry said that within a year and a half of the program’s start, dramatic improvements could already be seen. He believes the results show there is a need for mental health training among youth.

“I think our world is more complicated than it has ever been and it is hard on kids,” said Henry. “We see more and more of them presenting with complex mental health issues. So for us to be able to address that issue and tackle it with a really comprehensive approach, is powerful.”

Along with lower rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, Silverstone said the use of drugs, alcohol, and incidents of bullying also decreased among youth following participation in the program.

EMPATHY was discontinued after a loss of funding in 2015, but Silverstone believes it can act as a key tool in the prevention of mental health problems in youth before they get out of hand.

“Most psychiatric conditions start in the late teens and early 20s,” said Silverstone. “If you can prevent that, or give kids tools to help deal with it, you can have a major impact on the individuals and on society.”

Henry agrees. Despite seeing the program end, Red Deer Public Schools has continued to use elements of EMPATHY. Mental health training is still taught in its middle school health classes and the school district has kept an active relationship with Alberta Health, Primary Care Networks and other agencies in order to pro-actively offer help to kids in need.

Starting next year, Red Deer Public Schools will also have several mental health therapists housed in its schools as part of a new pilot project.

“It is very much modeled on the pieces that we really thought made a difference during the EMPATHY project,” said Henry.

“If we can normalize talk about mental health and have somebody that the kids know at the school who has got that level of training and support who can help them at the school level, then we will greatly reduce emergency issues.”

“These sorts of programs can be transformative for vast numbers of kids in a way that almost nothing else can be,” said Silverstone.

“And that translates to a huge positive for society as a whole. Reduced crime, reduced dropouts, higher graduation rates — all of these things we believe are linked to these kinds of interventions.”

Source: University of Alberta/EurekAlert