Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Children Likely to Develop PTSD If Mother Afflicted

A Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) study indicates that children are more likely to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) if their mother is already afflicted.

In the study published in the Journal of Depression & Anxiety, while fewer than 10 percent (8.4 percent) of the mothers were suffering from PTSD, more than a fifth (21 percent) of their children presented PTSD symptoms. Children who developed PTSD symptoms also had more psychosomatic complaints such as constipation, diarrhea and headaches.

"This study reinforces the existing body of knowledge regarding the importance of evaluating and treating parental responses in time of stress," the researchers explain.

"Parents are often the key to understanding children's responses generally and specifically in times of stress. The study also highlights the close interrelations between 'body and soul' among children and adults."

In the study, some 160 mothers of preschool children were interviewed about symptoms exhibited by their children and their own responses during Operation Cast Lead. More than 750 rockets were fired into Southern Israel from Gaza from December 2008 to January 2009.

Working with the Preschool Psychiatric Unit at Soroka University Medical Center, the BGU researchers examined the relationship between PTSD symptoms and socio-demographic, family attributes and psychosomatic symptoms among children exposed to Grad missile attacks in Beer-Sheva, Israel.
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Story Source:  materials provided by American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev(2013, November 27). Children significantly more likely to develop PTSD if mother afflicted. ScienceDaily.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How to Protect Your Good Mood

Psychology shows that it doesn't take much to put you in a bad mood. Just reading the morning news can do it. And being in a bad mood slows your reaction time, and affects your basic cognitive abilities like speech, writing, and counting. If you read a depressing newspaper headline in the morning, you may perform worse at work throughout the day.

But new research out of Tel Aviv University reveals that repeated exposure to a negative event neutralizes its effect on your mood and your thinking.

The study, published in Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, shows that it's better to read the article all the way through and repeatedly expose yourself to the negative information. You will be freer to go on with your day in a better mood and without any negative effects.
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Suggest reading ~

Story Source:  Moshe Shay Ben-Haim, Yaniv Mama, Michal Icht, Daniel Algom. Is the emotional Stroop task a special case of mood induction? Evidence from sustained effects of attention under emotion. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mindfullness Helps Prevent Bad Habits. Good Habits, Too.

"Mindfulness may help prevent formation of all habits because a mindful person is aware of what they are doing."

The technique of mindful awareness is commonly used to help people reduce the effects of stress in their lives.  But does it do more as well?

New research out of Georgetown University reveals that being mindful appears to help prevent the formation of bad habits.  That's the good news.  Being mindful may also prevent good habits, as well.

In trying to unravel the impact of implicit learning have come up with this conclusion - which may not make sense -- at first.

Consider this: when testing who would do best on a task to find patterns among a bunch of dots many might think mindful people would score higher than those who are distracted.  Actually, researchers found the opposite: participants low on the mindfulness scale did much better on this test of implicit learning, or learning that occurs without awareness.

This outcome might be surprising until one considers that behavioral and neuroimaging studies suggest that mindfulness can undercut the automatic learning processes.

This study was aimed at examining how individual differences in mindfulness are related to implicit learning. "Our theory is that one learns habits -- good or bad -- implicitly, without thinking about them," Stillman says. "So we wanted to see if mindfulness impeded implicit learning."

That is what they found. Two samples of adult participants first completed a test that gauged their mindfulness character trait, and then they completed different tasks that measured implicit learning -- either the Triplet-Learning Task or the Alternating Serial Reaction Time Task test. Both tasks used circles on a screen and participants were asked to respond to the location of certain colored circles. These tasks tested the ability of participants to learn complex, probabilistic patterns, although test takers would not be aware of that.

The researchers found that people reporting low on the mindfulness scale tended to learn more -- their reaction times were quicker in targeting events that occurred more often within a context of preceding events than those that occurred less often.

. . .mindfulness may prevent formation of all habits. . .

"The very fact of paying too much attention or being too aware of stimuli coming up in these tests might actually inhibit implicit learning," one researcher says. "That suggests that mindfulness may help prevent formation of all habits -- which is done through implicit learning -- because a mindful person is aware of what they are doing."
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Story Source: based on materials provided by Georgetown University Medical Center (2013, November 12). Mindfulness inhibits implicit learning -- the wellspring of bad habits. ScienceDaily.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Chronic Stress Changes Your Genes

It's now known that chronic stress not only will damage your body, it actually changes your genes - and that is not good news for the millions of people world-wide who suffer in unremitting stressful situations nor for our health care system.

The stress reaction, also known as the fight or flight reaction, is something we all have.  While this response is important for survival, prolonged activation over an extended period of time has negative effects on health.

During a stress reaction, you experience an event, say an argument or near accident.  Your heart races, your palms sweat, and your body reacts to the sudden dumping of adrenaline into your bloodstream.  After time, the adrenaline is used up, and our body returns to normal.

With chronic stress, whatever is stressing you, say a demanding boss or a requirement to work long hours over a long period of time, your body continually pumps out adrenaline without an opportunity to recover.  The end result can be burnout or perhaps a wide variety of debilitating diseases from heart attack to stroke to Alzheimer's, to name but a few.

New research shows that chronic stress also changes the activity of the genes in your immune cells before they reach the bloodstream. These changes "instruct" cause the cells in your immune system to fight an infection or trauma that doesn't exist.  This leads to an overabundance of the inflammation linked to so many health problems.  One thing a hyped-up immune system may do is to attack your own body with an auto-immune disease such as arthritis.

A study in animals showed that this type of chronic stress changes the activation, or expression, of genes in immune cells before they are released from the bone marrow.
  • Genes that lead to inflammation are expressed at higher-than-normal levels,
  • while the activation of genes that might suppress inflammation is diminished.
Ohio State University scientists made this discovery in a study of mice. Their colleagues from other institutions, testing blood samples from humans living in poor socioeconomic conditions, found that similarly primed immune cells were present in these chronically stressed people as well.

"The cells share many of the same characteristics in terms of their response to stress," said John Sheridan, professor of oral biology in the College of Dentistry and associate director of Ohio State's Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research (IBMR), and co-lead author of the study. "There is a stress-induced alteration in the bone marrow in both our mouse model and in chronically stressed humans that selects for a cell to be pro-inflammatory.

"So what this suggests is that if you're working for a really bad boss over a long period of time, that experience may play out at the level of gene expression in your immune system."

The mind-body connection is well established, and research has confirmed that stress is associated with health problems. But the inner workings of that association -- exactly how stress can harm health -- are still under investigation.

Under normal conditions, the bone marrow of humans is making and releasing billions of red blood cells every day, as well as a variety of white blood cells that constitute the immune system. Sheridan and colleagues already knew from previous work that stress skews this process so that the white blood cells produced in the bone marrow are more inflammatory than normal upon their release -- as if they are ready to defend the body against an external threat.

A typical immune response to a pathogen or other foreign body requires some inflammation, which is generated with the help of immune cells. But when inflammation is excessive and has no protective or healing role, the condition can lead to an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and obesity, as well as other disorders.

In this work, the researchers compared cells circulating in the blood of mice that had experienced repeated social defeat to cells from control mice that were not stressed. The stressed mice had an average fourfold increase in the frequency of immune cells in their blood and spleen compared to the normal mice.

"This study provides a nice mechanism for how psychology impacts biology," said study first author Nicole Powell, a research scientist in oral biology at Ohio State. "Other studies have indicated that these cells are more inflammatory; our work shows that these cells are primed at the level of the gene, and it's directly due to the sympathetic nervous system."

This same pro-inflammatory immune-cell profile has been seen in research on parents of children with cancer.
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Story Source:  N. D. Powell, E. K. Sloan, M. T. Bailey, J. M. G. Arevalo, G. E. Miller, E. Chen, M. S. Kobor, B. F. Reader, J. F. Sheridan, S. W. Cole. Social stress up-regulates inflammatory gene expression in the leukocyte transcriptome via  -adrenergic induction of myelopoiesis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Mindful Individuals Less Impulsive

Mindful individuals are much better at letting their feelings and thoughts go rather than getting carried away.

A new study from the University of Toronto Scarborough shows that people who are aware of their own thoughts and emotions are less affected by positive feedback from others.

"These findings suggest that mindful individuals may be less affected by immediate rewards and fits well with the idea that mindful individuals are typically less impulsive" says UTSC PhD candidate Rimma Teper.

Trait mindfulness is characterized by an ability to recognize and accept one's thoughts and emotions without judgment. Mindful individuals are much better at letting their feelings and thoughts go rather than getting carried away.

Using electroencephalography (EEG) the brain activity of participants was recorded while they completed a reaction time task on a computer. The authors were interested in participants' brain activity in response to receiving performance feedback that was rewarding, neutral or negative in nature. Not only were mindful individuals less responsive to rewarding feedback compared to others, they also showed less difference in their neural response to neutral versus rewarding feedback.

The findings also reflect further clinical research that supports the notion of accepting one's emotions is an important indicator of mental well-being.

"Individuals who are problem gamblers for instance show more brain reactivity to immediate rewards, because they are typically more impulsive," says Teper.

"Many studies, including our own past work, have shown that people who meditate, and mindful individuals exhibit improved self-control. If mindful individuals are also less affected by immediate rewards, as our study suggests, this may help explain why," says Teper's PhD supervisor and UTSC psychology professor Michael Inzlicht.

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Story Source:  Rimma Teper, Michael Inzlicht. Mindful Acceptance Dampens Neuroaffective Reactions to External and Rewarding Performance Feedback, Emotion, 2013