Say Hello to a Healthy Gut and Goodbye to Digestive Problems

By Scott Sanders

www.cancerwell.org

<info@cancerwell.org>

Some people can eat whatever they want without any issues. Others have negative reactions to certain foods and diets. If you’re one of many people who experience occasional digestive problems, it’s time to learn about how you can use the food you consume to heal you from the inside out. 

Digestive ailments hit everyone at some point in their lives, and they can be temporary inconveniences or chronic conditions. Who hasn’t had diarrhea, constipation, bloating, vomiting, or an upset stomach at some point? But there are many who suffer from serious conditions like gallstones, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and more. According to Everyday Health, 20 percent of Americans are affected by GERD, over 25 million have gallstones, and approximately 10 to 15 percent are affected by irritable bowel syndrome. Disruptive stomach conditions can be caused by what you eat, but they can also be treated by what you eat. 

Nutrition

Eating whole, unprocessed foods is the best way to heal the gut. Learn to read nutrition labelsto see what ingredients make up your food. Preservatives and additives make your digestive system work harder and cause other health issues. Some foreign ingredients simply shouldn’t be eaten. Buy your food fresh rather than from packages. The more ingredients in the food, the more you should avoid it.

Food Elimination

Digestive conditions and autoimmune diseases generally call for special diets. To see which foods affect you in negative ways, try an elimination diet that removes specific foods for one month. You can start by cutting out the foods that typically cause issues (such as gluten, dairy, corn, soy, sugar, and alcohol) and reintroduce them slowly to see how they affect you. Another option is to cut out one thing at a time to monitor any differences. If you’re willing to stick with a strict diet, the autoimmune protocoldiet helps reduce intestinal inflammation. 

Gut Health

Since your gut processes all of your body’s nutrients, the health of your digestive tract is important to your overall wellbeing. When things are off in your gut, the rest of your body feels off, too. Gut healthcould affect everything from your brain to your skin to your weight-loss efforts. 

Your gut contains both good bacteria and bad bacteria. Known as microbiomes, these microorganisms live inside your digestive tract. The friendly bacteriain your gut include Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, Saccharomyces Boulardii, Bacillus Coagulans, and Akkermansia microbes. They protect against harmful microbes, promote digestive health, aid in digestion, improve the immune system, produce vitamins, impact the metabolism, and have other positive effects on intestinal health. 

Disease

The good bacteria may prevent and treat diseases, such as inflammatory conditions, heart disease, and even cancer. Gut health is linked to cancer in many ways. Digestive issues are often due to cancer and side effects of treatments. Constipation, nausea, stomach cramps, weight loss, and digestion problems can occur as a result of pain medication, chemotherapy, or the cancer itself. 

Sometimes, it’s the gut health that helps treat cancer. An immunotherapy called Checkpoint Inhibition can shrink tumors, but studieshave shown that gut health could have something to do with the patient’s response to it. By altering the gut microbiome, patients develop a better response to the immunotherapy. More good bacteria means better immune cells to kill the cancer cells. 

Probiotics

Healthy people who don’t have underlying medical problems may want to consider adding probioticsto their daily routine. Probiotics contain the same helpful microorganisms that are present in our bodies. You can ingest probiotics through supplements or in foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, and kombucha (which also has antioxidants).

Exercise

Let’s not discount the importance of exercise for overall health. A healthy diet can heal your body, but never underestimate the role of physical fitness in a holistic approach to healing digestive ailments. Any form of cardiovascular exercise can help move digestive waste through your system. Yogais a great activity to practice, especially when it comes to reducing bloat.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to intestinal health and treating digestive disorders. Each body is different. It takes trial and error, listening to your body, and seeing a doctor when natural methods don’t provide results. When the solutions finally do come, you’ll get to relish in the joy of eating again.

K9s For Warriors - Because Together We Stand

Scott Smith
Sep 14, 2018

Soldier, take me from this shelter’s cage.
Give me back my life. In return, I’ll cover your back.
I’ll be your canine warrior, your sixth sense.
I’ll stand guard into the night and chase the demons away,
the uninvited, cloaked in night sweats and darkness. 

I will help you open your cage of solitude
then walk tall by your side into the light of day. 
Together, our faith will rise as tall as your soldier’s pride. 
We are now family in this post-911 world. 
Because together, we stand.

-Bridget Cassidy

MEET JAMES AND DUNKIN

James Rutland is a 12-year Army veteran who served a tour of duty in Iraq in 2004, followed by two more tours in South Korea. He left the military in 2014, suffering from multiple medical conditions related to his service, including mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), sleep apnea, and hearing loss, to name a few.

Most importantly, he suffered from depression and often thought about suicide. Thinking he could do it alone, Rutland tried healing from the trauma on his own. That wasn’t working. “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got,” says Rutland.

What Life Without Dunkin?

  - James Rutland of K9s For Warriors 

In 2016, Rutland finally rounded the bend of recovery when he was paired with his service dog, Dunkin. “I started focusing on "we instead of "me”, says Rutland. 

He has a semi-colon tattoo on his right wrist, a known symbol of taking a pause when thinking about suicide. Unlike a “period” which ends a sentence, the semicolon creates a pause, for the reader, then continues the story. Rutland wears it proudly. "It's a great conversation starter," Rutland says. 

He goes on to explain that breathing, family, friends, and the program that gave him Dunkin are what keeps him going.

THE PROGRAM: K9S FOR WARRIORS

K9s For Warriors is a BBB accredited charity organization located in Ponte Vedra, Florida, that has been pairing rescue dogs with traumatized soldiers since 2011. The dogs are trained to be service dogs, specifically performing tasks to quiet the symptoms of war trauma disabilities in soldiers. 

“The skillsets our dogs learn help these warriors with anxiety, isolation, depression, and nightmares,” says Shari Duval, the founder of K9s For Warriors. “So, the warriors can function again in public.”

Specifically, the dogs are trained to deal with symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), or military sexual trauma (MST), as a result of military service on or after 9/11.

K9s For Warriors sees it as two battles: fighting the past of the dog and fighting the past of the warrior. We’re saving two lives here. 

-Brett Simon 

K9s For Warriors veterans walking with their service dogs

Duval started the program after watching her son Brett Simon suffer from PTSD after he returned from Iraq. Simon did two tours, developing PTSD during the first one. Watching her son suffer from the debilitating condition motivated Duval to research alternative treatments to the standard talk therapy and medication, neither of which worked for her son.

“On average, soldiers take 14 meds a day to treat PTSD, TBI, or MST,” says Duval. If treatment is not working, she says veterans are prescribed more and more drugs. “I even knew one soldier who was taking 44 meds per day.”

After two years of researching alternative PTSD treatments, Duval came upon a program that paired service dogs to alleviate their PTSD symptoms in veterans. 

According to Simon, “Mom was the one that suggested I use a service dog to deal with my PTSD when nothing else worked.” Duval saw her son’s symptoms begin to improve. She then wanted to help other veterans do the same.

Thus, the K9s For Warrior program was born. With her son’s background in training dogs, including 13 years as a canine police officer, Duval convinced Simon to start the nonprofit together.

To date, the program has rescued more than 850 dogs and 440 military service members, with an astounding 99% program success rate.

Based on a recent Purdue study, the organization’s mission seems to be making a difference in the lives of warriors.

WHAT IS PTSD?
PTSD is classified as a mental disorder that develops after a person experiences severe trauma as a result of a traumatic event such as warfare, sexual assault, auto accident, or other severely traumatic events. PTSD symptoms are re-experiencing, avoidance, arousal, and negative changes in beliefs and feelings. The disability manifests itself in depression, anxiety, night terrors, and social embarrassment resulting in isolation. Many individuals have initial symptoms while others can worsen, requiring treatment.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), it is common to have reactions such as upsetting memories of an event, increased anxiety, or trouble sleeping after experiencing a traumatic event. If these reactions do not go away or worsen, then the individual may have PTSD.

Along with TBI and MST, PTSD is recognized under the American Veterans Aid (AVA), the Department of Justice through the American Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Veteran’s Association of America (VA). The Department of Defense (DoD) is also strongly committed to providing service members and families with access to quality mental health care and resources for all mental health conditions including PTSD. 

I appreciated the willingness of K9s for Warriors to open their doors to research and science.

-Dr. Maggie O'Haire

PILOT STUDY AFFIRMS ANTICIPATED OUTCOME

K9s For Warriors recently partnered with Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine on a pilot study testing the effectiveness of service dogs as a complementary treatment for military members and veterans who suffer from PTSD. Dr. Maggie O'Haire, assistant professor of human-animal interaction, along with Kerri E. Rodriguez, research assistant, conducted the study and published the findings earlier this year.

The study had a total of 141 participants from the K9s For Warriors’ program or individuals on the program’s waiting list. Half of the program's participants had service dogs; the other half did not.

The study found that PTSD symptoms were significantly lower in veterans with service dogs, demonstrating that service dogs are associated with lower PTSD symptoms among war veterans. “The initial findings showed lower depression, lower PTSD symptoms, lower levels of anxiety, and lower absenteeism from work due to health issues,” says Dr. O'Haire.

Each morning, she measured levels of cortisol - a stress hormone, in each participant; an increase of the hormone in the morning is indicative of a healthy level or curve. We tend to see a rise in cortisol immediately after waking up. “We call it the morning rise”, says Dr. O'Haire. 

Dr. Anantha Shekhar, Director of Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, and professor at Indiana University School of Medicine was the lead researcher on the grant at the university. "Service dogs are a great resource for veterans to modulate their own reactions and to cope better with symptoms of PTSD,” says Dr. Shekhar.

Dr. Timothy Hsiao, a Yale graduate, as well as the Program Director of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at the National Institute of Health (NIH) awarded the NCATS award to Dr. O’Haire as a KL2 Scholar under the CTSA Career Development Award.

“This is an innovative approach to a serious medical issue,” said Dr. Hsiao. “This study highlights the unique skills that the CTSA Program Hubs and their KL2 Scholars bring to address difficult conditions like PTSD.”

Other key findings (in a related study) included a significant reduction in suicidal thoughts, required medication (not suggested by K9s For Warriors),  night terrors, and an increase of three to four more hours of sleep per night. That is, in part, due to the fact that the service dogs are trained to wake up the warriors when experiencing night terrors. Purdue University is currently studying this behavior and although it hasn't been substantiated scientifically, it has been reported by K9s For Warriors anecdotally. 

Dr. O’Haire has been granted additional funding from NIH to perform a large-scale study on the efficacy of service dogs as a complementary treatment of PTSD symptoms in military members and veterans. The study is scheduled to be completed in 2019.

THEY RESCUED EACH OTHER

Her senses were always up, in a constant state of fight or flight, ever since that day in May of 2012. Tiffany Baker, an Army National Guard soldier, was traveling in a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle while stationed in Afghanistan when it hit a 250-pound IED. The bomb was so powerful, it rolled the heavily-enforced vehicle.

Baker sustained major physical injuries, requiring four hip surgeries the next year. She also suffered a traumatic brain injury because of the attack. “I was taking 17 medications between being overseas and then coming back,” says Baker. She was frequently going to the VA, seeing a counselor, psychiatrists, and psychologists. “They were constantly giving me medications.” She was feeling more and more isolated.

In February 2015, Baker medically retired, saying goodbye to her unit, the 1157 Transportation Company. That same year, she met Buddy through K9s For Warriors.

Buddy had been badly abused and neglected by his owner. Before being rescued, he was found tied to a tree without any food or water. “K9s For Warriors is great at pairing the dog with veterans,” says Baker. She explains that Buddy always covers her back. He’s "got her 6", and he creates a safe barrier between her and other people, allowing her to function in public.

Just as Buddy is my service dog, I am Buddy's service human.

-Tiffany Baker, K9s For Warrior graduate and advocate 

Baker was so taken with Buddy and the K9s For Warriors program that she got involved in supporting the PAWS (Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members) Act of 2017 that got the VA on board with service dogs helping veterans. The bill directs the VA to carry out a five-year pilot program, providing grant funding to qualifying nonprofits that provide service dogs to military members or veterans who suffer from PTSD after they finalize other traditional treatments. 

Baker actually spoke at a press conference in support of the act. “Going into the public was very difficult,” says Baker. “I’m always watching over my back.”

But Buddy has helped Baker to get back out into the public. Tiffany graduated this past May from Waukesha County Technical College with a degree in business management, and an emphasis in social media marketing.  As Baker puts it, she is like every other broken person whose service dog keeps them going. She says, “I need to get out of bed to take care of him.”

The two rescued each other.

Service dog gazing up at veteran

WAR TRAUMA: THE MONSTER IN THE ROOM

Seventeen years at war with a volunteer military has resulted in U.S. soldiers being deployed multiple times more than any other time in modern history. According to a recent Rand Corporation report, 2.77 million service members have been deployed on 5.4 million deployments since 9/11, with around 225,000 Army soldiers having been deployed at least three times or more.

The DoD reported that between 2000 and September 2017, about 173,000 active-duty service members were diagnosed with PTSD in the military health system, with about 139,000 of those being diagnosed following a deployment of 30 days or more.

According to the DoD, PTSD is treatable, and many service members will recover with appropriate treatment. However, many do not.

It is invisible and causes panic attacks, survivor guilt, anger, etc.

-Brett Simon 

Dr. Andrea Roberts, Research Scientist with the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University says PTSD is common in civilian life. “Most PTSD goes untreated,” says Roberts. “Individuals suffering from PTSD have higher tendencies for cardiovascular disease, high-blood pressure, and autoimmune disease (Lupus).”

Roberts went on to explain there are effective treatments for PTSD, including talk therapy or exposure therapy (where a patient is led through the trauma to understand that the event is part of the past and not in the present). Another treatment is prescription medication on its own or in combination with talk or psychotherapy.

HOW K9S FOR WARRIORS IS SAVING LIVES

Take Me from the Shelter’s Cage

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), 670,000 dogs are euthanized each year in the United States. “We take shelter or rescue dogs and turn them into warriors,” says Duval. K9s For Warriors rescues dogs from animal shelters across the United States, particularly local ones including the Alachua County Humane Society, Putnam County Shelter, and Lake City County Shelter.

It takes K9s For Warrior six months to train a dog. They train a total of 120 dogs per year. They rescue most breeds except full-bred Pitbulls, Dobermans, Chow Chows, Rottweilers, or Dalmatians due to insurance restrictions or state sanctions. The service dogs have full public access (with papers) but are not emotional support dogs or pets.

Once the dogs are fully trained, they are ready to be paired with their warrior. As Duval says, “When the dog's healthy, the warrior is healthy.”

As of May 2018, K9s has rescued 870 dogs with 434 dogs becoming service dogs, and the remaining rescues placed for adoption with loving families.

I Got Your 6

The K9s For Warriors program trains rescue or shelter dogs to perform four specific tasks: averting panic attacks, waking warriors from nightmares, creating personal space comfort zones in public situations by standing in front of the veteran (barrier) and reminding warriors to take their medications.

Dogs also learn two other commands: brace and cover. Many warriors suffer physical disabilities as well, so the brace command prepares the dog to assist the warrior with standing, sitting or kneeling. The cover command is used to cover the warrior’s back.

Many soldiers with PTSD do not like people coming up from behind them. In the field, soldiers say to one another, “I got your back” or “I got your 6.” The cover command does just that. The service dog literally becomes the warrior’s sixth sense, by sitting and facing the opposite way the warrior is facing. When someone approaches from behind, the dog wags its tail.

According to Moira Smith of the ASPCA, service animals can also boost the handler’s social and emotional life, in addition to providing safety and autonomy in public. “The dog acts as a bridge for social interaction,” says Smith. She explains that most Americans can’t relate to war experiences, but they are familiar with taking care of a dog as a pet. “It also adds another dimension to their identity.”

Dogs and Warriors Together: Let the Healing Begin

The three-week program is open to veterans or military members who became disabled while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces on or after 9/11. The program costs $27,000 per participant but at no cost to the warrior. If one cannot cover travel costs, K9s pays for travel to and from the facility. To Duval, every military member or veteran who walks through her door is family and is treated with honor and respect. “We bring the warrior home to heal, to a place to regroup, to hit the reset button,” says Duval.

To qualify, a warrior must submit an application and have a verified clinical diagnosis of PTSD, TBI, or MST. All applications go through a full vetting process that takes 2-4 weeks to complete. During that time, a trained service dog is identified that matches the applicant’s specific situation and needs. The organization stays in constant contact with applicants throughout the entire application process, including after approval or while a warrior is put on the waiting list. The waiting period is currently one year.

The dog doesn’t know or care about their diagnoses - they love the handler unconditionally. 

-Moira Smith of the ASPCA

If accepted into the program, the warrior must reside at Camp K9, the organization’s Florida facility, for three weeks. There is one program per month with 12 warriors in attendance. Warriors arrive on a Sunday and are introduced to their canine warriors within 24 hours. “After that, you go nowhere without your dog,” says Simon.

K9s For Warriors believes their program is unique. In addition to matching warriors with service dogs and providing training, certifications, seminars, legal instruction, and housing, they also offer what Duval calls “wrap-around services.” These include lifelong health care and food for the service dogs and ongoing unconditional love and support of the warrior pair.

The program includes grooming, health care, and command classes, among others. Public access classes take warriors out in public with their dogs, to Costco, to the Jacksonville Zoo, to downtown St. Augustine or a restaurant. “They go to places in a high-stress environment to force them to use their dogs,” says Simon. At the end of the program, warriors and their dogs go to a local park and practice all the commands. Before graduating, the pairs take a Public Access test regulated by the Assistance Dogs International (ADI).

ADI sets the standards for training guide, hearing, and service dogs. Sheila O’Brien, the President of the North America Chapter, says, “This is a rigorous process, holding organizations to the highest standards.” According to O’Brien, the committee was formed (with ADI) nine years ago to look at programs that are placing dogs with vets and persons with PTSD to develop best practices.

She went on to explain that the initial purpose of ADI was to meet the physical needs of veterans. “After speaking with vets, we understood they could handle the physical disabilities, but it was the PTSD that was with them 24/7, and that’s where the service dogs provided the most value.”

There are now 72 ADI-accredited programs throughout North America with a total of 17,502 service dog teams formed from accredited programs. Each team must be recertified every five years.

We Are Family

Duval is all about family and serving those she vehemently sees as our nation’s greatest asset: our country’s military members.

Each month, a new family is formed when a warrior takes his or her first step onto the grounds at Camp K9 in Florida. In addition to meeting their dog and dog trainer, warriors meet the “Housemoms,” volunteers who stay in the facility day and night and talk with the warriors about everyday things instead of their military service.

The Housemoms run errands, grocery shop, and take warriors on outings. After graduation, Housemoms continue to stay in touch with the warriors by phone and on social media.

Apart from the Housemoms, K9s For Warriors relies heavily on its volunteers, local businesses, and support from Florida's veteran community. Many of the meals donated to the program come from local restaurants, neighbors, and organizations. Whether it be offering emotional aid to our veterans or helping with kennel enrichment, K9s is readily available to accept new Volunteer Ambassadors.

Service dogs are prescriptions on four legs

-Shari Duval 

At the start, K9s For Warriors operated out of two houses with the dogs in the garages and vets sleeping on couches. "Then our humble beginnings were transformed by Summit Contracting. They believed in our program and built us a beautiful 17,000 square foot facility on nine acres. It was the most incredible gift in the world" said Simon. 

In 2017, Steve Gold and family, gifted The Gold Family Campus to K9s For Warriors. The campus is a 67-acre property featuring a 9-bedroom and 7-bath house. It will be powered by solar panels (worth $1 million), making the campus energy-independent. The facility is currently under construction and will be operational in 2019.

It will allow four more veterans to attend each monthly program, bringing the total number of warriors graduating per month to 16. The campus will also function as the primary facility for female military members and veterans.

An additional facility means more space for Duval and Simon to save lives.

STANDING TOGETHER FOR A BETTER TOMORROW

There are good things in K9s For Warriors’ future.

As previously stated, Dr. O’Haire is partnering again with K9s For Warriors on a more extensive study funded by NIH. The findings will be published in 2019.

The VA is also running a Congressionally-mandated PTSD service dog study that will be completed in 2019. A total of 180 veterans have received either a service dog or an emotional support dog as part of the study. According to a VA spokesperson, after peer reviews, the VA will submit the study and results to the National Academy of Sciences for review, as required by the authorizing legislation (Section 1077 of the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act).

On the legislative side, Simon is working to secure public access identification from Service Dog Credentials, so K9s For Warriors’ service dogs will be recognized by airlines, hotels, and restaurants, bypassing the need for the warriors to provide paperwork or visit the disability office.

The future for K9s For Warriors looks promising as Duval and Simon continue to fight to save lives, both of soldiers and their canine warriors.

Because together, they stand.

https://www.consumersadvocate.org/features/k9s-for-warriors

--------------------------------------------

For more information on PTSD treatment options, visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD: National Center for PTSD or the DoD, which encourages service members to ask for help by affirming that seeking help is actually a sign of strength.

Co-Author Bridget Cassidy, Associated Editor

Insufficient sleep associated with risky behavior in teens

Mental health issues, substance abuse, accidents more likely for high school students sleeping less than six hours per night

October 1, 2018

Science Daily/Brigham and Women's Hospital

Researchers examined a national data sample of risk-taking behaviors and sleep duration self-reported by high school students over eight years and found an association between sleep duration and personal safety risk-taking actions.

 

Adolescents require 8-10 hours of sleep at night for optimal health, according to sleep experts, yet more than 70 percent of high school students get less than that. Previous studies have demonstrated that insufficient slsleep eep in youth can result in learning difficulties, impaired judgement, and risk of adverse health behaviors. In a new study, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital examined a national data sample of risk-taking behaviors and sleep duration self-reported by high school students over eight years and found an association between sleep duration and personal safety risk-taking actions. Results are published in a JAMA Pediatrics research letter on October 1.

 

"We found the odds of unsafe behavior by high school students increased significantly with fewer hours of sleep," said lead author Mathew Weaver, PhD, research fellow, Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Brigham and Women's Hospital. "Personal risk-taking behaviors are common precursors to accidents and suicides, which are the leading causes of death among teens and have important implications for the health and safety of high school students nationally."

 

Compared to students who reported sleeping eight hours at night, high school students who slept less than six hours were twice as likely to self-report using alcohol, tobacco, marijuana or other drugs, and driving after drinking alcohol. They were also nearly twice as likely to report carrying a weapon or being in a fight. Researchers found the strongest associations were related to mood and self- harm. Those who slept less than six hours were more than three times as likely to consider or attempt suicide, and four times as likely to attempt suicide, resulting in treatment. Only 30 percent of the students in the study reported averaging more than eight hours of sleep on school nights.

 

The Youth Risk Behavior Surveys are administered biannually by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at public and private schools across the country. Researchers used data from 67,615 high school students collected between 2007 and 2015. Personal safety risk-taking behaviors were examined individually and as composite categories. All analyses were weighted to account for the complex survey design and controlled for age, sex, race, and year of survey in mathematical models to test the association between sleep duration and each outcome of interest.

 

"Insufficient sleep in youth raises multiple public health concerns, including mental health, substance abuse, and motor vehicle crashes," said senior author Elizabeth Klerman, MD, PhD, director of the Analytic Modeling Unit, Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Brigham and Women's Hospital. "More research is needed to determine the specific relationships between sleep and personal safety risk-taking behaviors. We should support efforts to promote healthy sleep habits and decrease barriers to sufficient sleep in this vulnerable population."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181001114300.htm

 

Mitigating stress, PTSD risk in warfighters

September 27, 2018

Science Daily/U.S. Army Research Laboratory

Researchers have developed a technique that has the potential to provide measures that facilitate the development of procedures to mitigate stress and the onset of conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder in warfighters.

 

A U.S. Army Research Laboratory scientist has collaborated with a team of researchers from the University of North Texas to develop a new data processing technique that uses electroencephalogram, or EEG, time series variability as a measure of the state of the brain.

 

The researchers say such a technique has the potential to provide measures that facilitate the development of procedures to mitigate stress and the onset of conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in warfighters.

 

"The human brain is considered by many to be the most complex organ in existence, with over a billion neurons and having in excess of a trillion interconnections," said Dr. Bruce West, senior scientist of mathematics and information science at the U.S. Army Research Office and ARL Fellow.

 

According to West, it is the operation of this extraordinary complex network of neurons that hosts human thinking, and through the central nervous system, enables the functioning of most, if not all, of the physiologic networks, such as the respiratory, motor control and cardiovascular.

 

However, according to the researchers, even with this central role the brain plays in enabling our existence, remarkably little is known about how it does what it does.

 

Consequently, measures for how well the brain carries out its various functions are critical surrogates for understanding, particularly for maintaining the health and wellbeing of military personnel.

 

A small but measureable electrical signal generated by the mammalian brain was captured in the electrocardiogram of small animals by Caton in 1875 and in human brains by Berger in 1925.

 

Norbert Wiener, a half century later, provided the mathematical tools believed necessary to penetrate the mysterious relations between the brain waves in EEG time series and the functioning of the brain.

 

According to West, progress along this path has been slow, and after over a century of data collection and analysis, there is no taxonomy of EEG patterns that delineates the correspondence between those patterns and brain activity....until now!

 

The technique developed by West and his academic partners generalizes Evolutionary Game Theory, a mathematical technique historically used in the formulation of decision making in war gaming.

 

Their findings are reported in a paper published in the August edition of Frontiers in Physiology.

 

In the paper, titled "Bridging Waves and Crucial Events in the Dynamics of the Brain," West, along with Gyanendra Bohara and Paolo Grigolini of the University of North Texas, propose and successfully test a new model for the collective behavior within the brain, which bridges the gap between waves and random fluctuations in EEG data.

 

"The work horse of decision making within the military has historically been Game Theory, in which players cooperate or defect, and with pairwise interactions receive various payoffs so that under given conditions certain strategies always win," West said. "When the game is extended to groups in which individual strategy choices are made sequentially and can change over time, the situation evolves offering a richer variety of outcomes including the formation of collective states in which everyone is a cooperator or a defector, resulting in a collective state."

 

It turns out, West said, that the technique developed to process EEG data, the self-organized time criticality method, or SOTC method, incorporates a strategy that is an extension of Evolutionary Game Theory directly into the modeling of the brain's dynamics.

 

"The collective, or critical, state of the neural network is reached spontaneously by the internal dynamics of the brain and as with all critical phenomena its emergent properties are determined by the macroscale independently of the microscale dynamics," West said.

 

This macroscale can be directly accessed by the EEG spectrum.

 

The EEG spectrum, obtained by the SOTC method, decays like Brownian motion at high frequencies, has a peak at an intermediate frequency (alpha wave) and at low frequencies has an inverse power law.

 

In the case of the brain, the inverse power law has revealed that there is a broad range of time scales over which the brain is able to respond to the demands placed on it.

 

This spectrum suggests a flexibility in response, reflecting a potential range from concentrating on a single task for hours to rapidly countering a physical assault.

 

"This means that in the foreseeable future the physical training of warriors, along with the necessary monitoring of progress associated with that training, will be expanded to include the brain," West said. "The reliable processing of brain activity, along with the interpretation of the processed EEG signal, will guide the development of reliable techniques to reduce stress, enhance situational awareness and increase the ability to deal with uncertainty, both on and off the battlefield."

 

West said that the research team even speculates that such understanding of brain dynamics may provide the insight necessary to mitigate the onset of PTSD by early detection and intervention, as is routinely done for more obvious maladies.

 

According to West, going forward with this research can proceed in at least two ways.

 

"One way is to apply these promising results to data sets of interest to the Army," West said. "For example, quantify how the EEG records of warriors with PTSD differ from a control group of warriors and how this measure changes under different therapy and medication protocols. The other way is to refine the technique, for example, locate where on the scalp it is the most robust, while retaining sensitivity."

 

However this research proceeds, these Army scientists are focused on bringing the technology to fruition to help the Soldier of the future succeed in an ever-changing world and battlefield.

 

Earlier this year, the research team published on work that look at the processing heart rate data and how heart rate was indirectly influenced by meditation through the dynamics of the brain. That work examined how the brain influences the operation of the body by directly measuring how the physiologic system (cardiovascular in this case) responds to changes in the brain (by means of meditation).

 

This current work focuses on processing EEG data and directly interpreting the dynamics of the brain; it examines how the rhythmic behavior of brain waves (alpha, beta, gamma, etc. waves) can be understood to be compatible with the fluctuations in brain wave data.

 

Both papers are part of an ongoing ARL-University of North Texas study to determine if the fluctuations in all the physiological systems are produced by a previously unidentified mechanism that we call crucial events.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180927091010.htm

Postnatal depression could be linked to fewer daylight hours during late pregnancy

Shortening days during third trimester of pregnancy may add to risk of postpartum depression

September 27, 2018

Science Daily/Springer

Women in late pregnancy during darker months of the year may have a greater risk of developing postpartum depression once their babies are born. This is consistent with what is known about the relationship between exposure to natural light and depression among adults in the general population.

 

Although reduced exposure to natural light has been associated with depression among adults in the general population, there is not yet a consensus about whether light exposure or seasonality influences the development of depression during and after pregnancy.

 

In this study, Goyal and her colleagues at the University of California San Francisco analysed available information from 293 women who participated in one of two randomized controlled clinical trials about sleep before and after pregnancy. The participants were all first-time mothers from the US state of California. Data included the amount of daylight during the final trimester of their pregnancy, along with information about known risk factors such as a history of depression, the woman's age, her socioeconomic status and how much she slept.

 

Overall, the participants had a 30 per cent risk of depression. The analysis suggested that the number of daylight hours a woman was exposed to during her final month of pregnancy and just after birth had a major influence on the likelihood that she developed depressive symptoms.

 

The lowest risk for depression (26 per cent) occurred among women whose final trimester coincided with seasons with longer daylight hours. Depression scores were highest (35 per cent) among women whose final trimester coincided with "short" days and the symptoms continued to be more severe following the birth of their babies in this group of women. In the northern hemisphere, this timeframe refers to the months of August to the first four days of November (late summer to early autumn).

 

"Among first-time mothers, the length of day in the third trimester, specifically day lengths that are shortening compared to day lengths that are short, long or lengthening, were associated with concurrent depressive symptom severity," Goyal explains.

 

The findings suggest that using light treatment in the late third trimester when seasonal day length is shortening could minimize postpartum depressive symptoms in high-risk mothers during the first three months of their children's lives. Goyal says that women with a history of mental health problems and those who are already experiencing depressive symptoms in the third trimester might further benefit from being outdoors when possible, or using devices such as light boxes that provide light therapy.

 

"Women should be encouraged to get frequent exposure to daylight throughout their pregnancies to enhance their vitamin D levels and to suppress the hormone melatonin," adds Goyal, who says that clinicians should also advise their patients to get more exercise outdoors when weather and safety permit. "Daily walks during daylight hours may be more effective in improving mood than walking inside a shopping mall or using a treadmill in a gym. Likewise, early morning or late evening walks may be relaxing but would be less effective in increasing vitamin D exposure or suppressing melatonin."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180927105733.htm

 

Fish-rich diets in pregnancy may boost babies' brain development

September 20, 2018

Science Daily/Springer

Women could enhance the development of their unborn child's eyesight and brain function by regularly eating fatty fish during pregnancy. This is the suggestion from a small-scale study. The research supports previous findings that show how important a prospective mother's diet and lifestyle choices are for the development of her baby.

 

According to Laitinen, a mother's diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding is the main way that valuable long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids become available to a fetus and infant brain during the period of maximum brain growth during the first years of a child's life. Such fatty acids help to shape the nerve cells that are relevant to eyesight and particularly the retina. They are also important in forming the synapses that are vital in the transport of messages between neurons in the nervous system.

 

In this study, Laitinen and her colleagues analysed the results of 56 mothers and their children drawn from a larger study. The mothers had to keep a regular food diary during the course of their pregnancy. Fluctuations in their weight before and during pregnancy were taken into account, along with their blood sugar level and blood pressure. Aspects such as whether they smoked or developed diabetes related to pregnancy were also noted.

 

The team recorded the levels of nutritional long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid sources in the mother's diet and blood serum, and the levels in the blood of their children by the age of one month. Their children were further tested around their second birthday using pattern reversal visual evoked potentials (pVEP). This sensitive and accurate, non-invasive method is used to detect visual functioning and maturational changes occurring within a young child's visual system.

 

The subsequent analyses of the visual test results revealed that infants whose mothers ate fish three or more times a week during the last trimester of their pregnancy fared better than those whose mothers ate no fish or only up to two portions per week. These observations were further substantiated when the serum phospholipid fatty acid status was evaluated.

 

"The results of our study suggest that frequent fish consumption by pregnant women is of benefit for their unborn child's development. This may be attributable to long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids within fish, but also due to other nutrients like vitamin D and E, which are also important for development," explains Laitinen.

 

"Our study therefore highlights the potential importance of subtle changes in the diet of healthy women with uncompromised pregnancies, beyond prematurity or nutritional deficiencies, in regulating infantile neurodevelopment," adds Laitinen, who believes that their results should be incorporated into counselling given to pregnant women about their diets.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180920102207.htm

 

Household cleaning products may contribute to kids' overweight by altering their gut microbiota

September 17, 2018

Science Daily/Canadian Medical Association Journal

Commonly used household cleaners could be making children overweight by altering their gut microbiota, suggests a new study.

 

The study analyzed the gut flora of 757 infants from the general population at age 3-4 months and weight at ages 1 and 3 years, looking at exposure to disinfectants, detergents and eco-friendly products used in the home.

 

Researchers from across Canada looked at data from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) birth cohort on microbes in infant fecal matter. They used World Health Organization growth charts for body mass index (BMI) scores.

 

Associations with altered gut flora in babies 3-4 months old were strongest for frequent use of household disinfectants such as multisurface cleaners, which showed lower levels of Haemophilus and Clostridium bacteria but higher levels of Lachnospiraceae. The researchers also observed an increase in Lachnospiraceae bacteria with more frequent cleaning with disinfectants. They did not find the same association with detergents or eco-friendly cleaners. Studies of piglets have found similar changes in the gut microbiome when exposed to aerosol disinfectants.

 

"We found that infants living in households with disinfectants being used at least weekly were twice as likely to have higher levels of the gut microbes Lachnospiraceae at age 3-4 months; when they were 3 years old, their body mass index was higher than children not exposed to heavy home use of disinfectants as an infant," said Anita Kozyrskyj, a University of Alberta pediatrics professor, and principal investigator on the SyMBIOTA project, an investigation into how alteration of the infant gut microbiome impacts health.

 

Babies living in households that used eco-friendly cleaners had different microbiota and were less likely to be overweight as toddlers.

 

"Those infants growing up in households with heavy use of eco cleaners had much lower levels of the gut microbes Enterobacteriaceae. However, we found no evidence that these gut microbiome changes caused the reduced obesity risk," she said.

 

She suggests that the use of eco-friendly products may be linked to healthier overall maternal lifestyles and eating habits, contributing in turn to the healthier gut microbiomes and weight of their infants.

 

"Antibacterial cleaning products have the capacity to change the environmental microbiome and alter risk for child overweight," write the authors. "Our study provides novel information regarding the impact of these products on infant gut microbial composition and outcomes of overweight in the same population."

 

A related commentary provides perspective on the interesting findings.

 

"There is biologic plausibility to the finding that early-life exposure to disinfectants may increase risk of childhood obesity through the alterations in bacteria within the Lachnospiraceae family," write epidemiologists Dr. Noel Mueller and Moira Differding, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in a related commentary.

 

They call for further studies "to explore the intriguing possibility that use of household disinfectants might contribute to the complex causes of obesity through microbially mediated mechanisms."

 

Dr. Kozyrskyj agrees and points to the need for studies that classify cleaning products by their actual ingredients. "The inability to do this was a limitation of our study."

 

The research study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) with funding from the Allergy, Genes and Environment (AllerGen) Network of Centres of Excellence for the CHILD study.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180917082435.htm

Men are still more likely than women to be perceived as leaders

Despite progress, gender gap in leadership persists

August 9, 2018

Science Daily/University at Buffalo

Women hold just 26 percent of executive-level positions in S&P 500 companies -- and sadly that is no accident, according to a new study.

 

The study, which was made available online in March ahead of publication in the August print edition of Personnel Psychology, found that, on average, men are more likely than women to emerge as leaders.

 

The research team -- led by doctoral student Katie Badura and Emily Grijalva, PhD, assistant professor of organization and human resources in the UB School of Management -- aggregated 59 years of research, encompassing more than 19,000 participants and 136 studies from lab, business and classroom settings.

 

They discovered that although the gender gap has narrowed in recent decades, it still persists.

 

"As a society, we've made progress toward gender equality, but clearly we're not quite there," Badura says. "Our results are consistent with the struggle many organizations face today to increase diversity in their leadership teams."

 

The researchers primarily attribute the gender gap to societal pressures that contribute to gender differences in personality traits. For example, men tend to be more assertive and dominant, whereas women tend to be more communal, cooperative and nurturing. As a result, men are more likely to participate and voice their opinions during group discussions, and be perceived by others as leaderlike.

 

"We found showing sensitivity and concern for others -- stereotypically feminine traits -- made someone less likely to be seen as a leader," Grijalva says. "However, it's those same characteristics that make leaders effective. Thus, because of this unconscious bias against communal traits, organizations may unintentionally select the wrong people for leadership roles, choosing individuals who are loud and confident but lack the ability to support their followers' development and success."

 

While group size and participants' ages did not affect the gender gap, the study found the length of time participants spent together was an important factor in whether men or women emerged as leaders. The longer a group spent together, the less gender influenced who emerged as the group's leader.

 

"The gender gap was strongest during the first 20 minutes people were together, similar to an initial job interview, but weakened after more than one interaction," Grijalva says. "During the hiring process, organizations should conduct multiple interviews to reduce gender bias and ensure they're hiring the best applicant."

 

For managers, the researchers suggest promoting the value of communal behaviors in performance evaluations, prompting quieter individuals to share their ideas and being mindful of any unconscious biases you or your staff may have.

 

"In the Obama White House, female staffers adopted a strategy of amplifying one another's comments during meetings and giving credit to the individual who said it first, to ensure that women's voices were being heard," Badura says. "Tactics like this help the most qualified individuals stand out and emerge into leadership roles -- regardless of gender."

 

The project was partially supported through a grant from the University at Buffalo Gender Institute.

 

Badura and Grijalva conducted the study with Daniel A. Newman, professor of psychology and labor and employment relations, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Thomas Taiyi Yan, PhD student, University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business; and Gahyun Jeon, postdoctoral research associate, Northwestern University.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180809144524.htm

 

PTSD rate among prison employees equals that of war veterans

July 16, 2018

Science Daily/Washington State University

Prison employees experience PTSD on par with Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, a new study from a Washington State University College of Nursing researcher found.

 

Working conditions in a prison can include regular exposure to violence and trauma, and threats of harm to the workers and their families. Previous studies have shown that prison workers have some of the highest rates of mental illness, sleep disorders and physical health issues of all U.S. workers. But the rate of PTSD among prison workers isn't well understood.

 

The new study, "Prison employment and post-traumatic stress disorder: Risk and protective factors," was conducted by lead investigator Lois James, Ph.D., assistant professor at the WSU College of Nursing, and co-investigator Natalie Todak, assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

 

It recently was published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine and excerpted in Force Science News.

 

"Prison employees can face some of the toughest working conditions of U.S. workers," said James, "yet limited evidence exists on the specific risk and protective factors to inform targeted interventions."

 

Among the study's findings:

 

·     Prison employees work under an almost constant state of threat to their personal safety, and about a quarter of them routinely experience serious threats to themselves or their families.

·     Almost half have witnessed co-workers being seriously injured by inmates.

·     More than half have seen an inmate die or have encountered an inmate who recently died.

·     The vast majority have dealt with inmates who were recently beaten and/or sexually assaulted.

 

PTSD rates were higher among women, black employees, and employees with more than 10 years of experience. PTSD scores, using criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, didn't differ based on where the employee worked, such as a minimum versus maximum security facility.

 

James and Todak note that the research included a small sample of 355 employees of one labor union at the Washington State Department of Corrections, and recommended further study of the issue.

 

Still, they said their findings suggest the corrections profession could benefit from specific training to promote resilience. They also said issues common to nearly every workplace also can protect prison employees from PTSD, such as having good relationships with supervisors and coworkers, and liking their work assignments.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180716091509.htm

Teens with concussion may benefit from earlier physical therapy

June 27, 2018

Science Daily/Wolters Kluwer Health

For adolescents with symptoms following a concussion, starting physical therapy (PT) earlier -- within less than three weeks after the injury -- provides outcomes similar to those of later PT.

 

"Multimodal PT interventions administered by licensed physical therapists may be feasible and safe even within the first few weeks after injury to help facilitate prompt recovery and mitigate the onset of secondary effects from delayed treatment," write Catherine Quatman-Yates, DPT, PhD, of The Ohio State University, Columbus, and colleagues. The study is part of a JNPT special issue on "Rehabilitation Management of Concussion," highlighting research-driven changes geared toward promoting return to activity in young patients with concussion.

 

Similar Outcomes for Teens with Concussion Undergoing Earlier or Later PT

 

The researchers looked how the timing of PT affected the course of concussion-related symptoms in 120 adolescents: 78 females and 42 males, median age 14 years. Physical therapy was classified as early (beginning 0 to 20 days after concussion) in 27.5 percent of patients, middle (21 to 41 days) in 32.5 percent, and late (42 days or after) in 40 percent.

 

The PT program consisted of progressive exercise; vestibular/oculomotor training (targeting inner ear/balance and visual symptoms); and cervical spine manual therapy, stretching, and strengthening exercises. This multimodal treatment was delivered by licensed physical therapists with special training in concussion treatment.

 

Whether started earlier or later, PT led to similar reductions in concussion-related symptoms. The number of sessions and duration of PT care were similar across groups. There was a low rate of adverse events, most of which were unrelated to PT.

 

Symptoms worsened in a few patients, more commonly in the late PT group. Some of these patients may have had concussion-related impairments not directly addressed by PT, such as anxiety, depression, or sleep problems.

 

Recent research has led to new insights into medical management of concussion in children and adolescents. Past guidelines recommended complete physical and cognitive (mental) rest after concussion, until symptoms resolved. But recent studies have suggested that resting for more than a day or two has limited benefits, and may even be linked to increased concussive symptoms.

 

Today, concussion management is shifting toward a shorter period of rest, followed by gradual return to usual activities, guided by the patient's symptoms. Physical therapy has been recommended for adolescents with persistent symptoms of concussion, generally after three weeks.

 

The new study provides evidence that starting PT earlier is a safe and feasible approach for adolescents after concussion, with improved symptoms regardless of the timing of the intervention. "Introducing PT earlier in the recovery process may be beneficial in minimizing the potential burden of longer recovery trajectories," Dr. Quatman-Yates and coauthors write. They emphasize the need for further research to determine PT's role in the "optimal plan of care" for young patients with concussion.

 

Other articles in the special issue include a neuroscience perspective on the role of rest versus physical activity in recovery for young people with concussion, along with new research on changes in vestibular/oculomotor function and the role of balance testing after concussion.

 

Physical therapists can play a critical role in evaluating and choosing targeted interventions most likely to result in the best outcomes for patients with concussion, according to a Guest Editorial by Karen L. McCulloch, PT, PhD, NCS, and Kathleen Gill-Body, PT, DPT, MS, NCS, FAPTA. They write, "We are in an ideal position to continue our process of returning people to activities and roles that they care about...because it is what we do."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180627160258.htm

Certain PTSD therapies prove effective long after patients stop treatment

Reducing severity of PTSD symptoms long-term holds significant public-health and economic implications

April 19, 2018

Science Daily/Case Western Reserve University

Reducing severity of PTSD symptoms long-term holds significant public-health and economic implications.

 

Both civilians and military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) reap long-term benefits from psychotherapies used for short-term treatment, according to a new study from Case Western Reserve University.

 

The findings suggest effective and lasting approaches for symptoms of PTSD-a debilitating and typically chronic disorder that rarely diminishes spontaneously and is associated with significant distress, impairment and considerable economic costs.

 

For U.S.-based military veterans alone, lost productivity, health-care and other costs are estimated to be in the billions of dollars, according to recent peer-reviewed research.

 

The paper, published in the journal Clinical Psychology Review, was based on a meta-analysis of 32 PTSD-related studies-involving 72 treatment conditions-that followed up with patients at least six months, and up to nearly two years, after treatment ended.

 

Patients displayed less-intense symptoms up to two years after treatment ended, compared to six months post-therapy, according to the study.

 

"It is possible that the longer time between post-treatment and follow-up assessments may provide a better opportunity for new skills to be practiced and reinforced, and for treatment gains to crystallize," said Alex Kline, a co-author of the study and a PhD student in adult clinical psychology in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Case Western Reserve.

 

PTSD treatments effective in both the short- and long-term include trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy. Both are relatively common in veterans' facilities yet are inconsistently available elsewhere-a major barrier to access and effective treatment, Kline said.

 

"It's important to get a better understanding of who responds to what and why," Kline said. "Showing that PTSD treatment gains are being maintained is meaningful for health-care providers choosing how to improve patient outcomes and drive down costs of ineffectual care."

 

Broadly, cognitive behavioral therapy reduces symptoms by changing patient behavior and addressing maladaptive thoughts. In particular, exposure therapy-considered the current standard for PTSD treatment-exposes patients to feared stimuli under deliberate, controlled, safe conditions.

 

While some PTSD patients do not respond to current treatments, most do-across a range of populations, settings and trauma types.

 

PTSD often co-occurs with depression, but the findings run counter to a recent similar study of long-term depression outcomes, where effectiveness decreased with longer follow-up periods. That was noteworthy, Kline said, given the diagnostic overlap between PTSD and depression and high rates of co-occurrence between the two disorders.

 

"Eventually, our findings and others could optimize treatments," he said. "The goal is to match patients with what's best for them."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180419131133.htm

How chronic early-life stress raises PTSD vulnerability

Persistent stress in adolescence appears to increase vulnerability through elevated ghrelin levels in rat model and in humans

April 11, 2018

Science Daily/Massachusetts General Hospital

A collaboration between investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital and Khyber Medical University in Pakistan may have discovered how chronic stress experienced early in life increases vulnerability to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) later in life. In their report published in Translational Psychiatry the researchers describe finding that chronic stress induces a persistent increase in the hormone ghrelin, both in a rat model and in human adolescents. Rats with stress-induced ghrelin elevations were more vulnerable to an excessive fear response long after the stressful experience, a vulnerability that was eliminated by long-term blockade of ghrelin signaling.

 

"Ghrelin is called the 'hunger hormone,' and while it does play an important role in appetite, it has many other effects," says Ki Goosens, PhD, of the MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease, who led the study. "Several teams have shown that repeated stress exposure increases circulating ghrelin levels in many organisms, but those studies examined ghrelin shortly after the stressor exposure ended. Ours is the first to show that traumatic stress increases ghrelin in humans -- specifically in adolescent humans -- and the first to look at ghrelin elevation over long time periods after the end of the stressor."

 

Considerable evidence supports the impact of early-life stress on brain function and on other health outcomes in human adults. Adolescents are known to have increased emotional reactions to their experiences, and stress may enhance that reactivity, increasing vulnerability to several mental health disorders. Since areas of the brain such as the prefrontal cortex that regulate fear-responsive structures including the amygdala continue to develop during adolescence, stress-induced disruption of the developmental process during adolescence could interfere with those regulatory circuits.

 

To investigate the potential long-term impact of chronic stress on ghrelin levels, the researchers conducted a series of experiments. Chronic stress was induced in a group of adolescent rats by immobilizing them inside their cages daily for two weeks. A control group was handled daily by research team members over the same time period. Not only were ghrelin levels in the stress-exposed rats significantly higher 24 hours after the last stress exposure, as previously reported, they also remained elevated 130 days later, roughly equivalent to 12 years in human lifespan.

 

To investigate whether long-term stress produced similar persistent ghrelin elevation in humans, the researcher enrolled 88 children from the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, an area affected by more than a decade of terrorist activity. The participants averaged around age 14 at the time of study, and some had either experienced a personal injury or lost a family member in a terrorist attack around four years prior to entering the study. The control group consisted of children who had not experienced those specific types of trauma.

 

Blood tests revealed that circulating ghrelin levels in the trauma-affected children were around twice those of the control group. Based on interviews with the children and their parents, trauma-affected children also had differences in their sleep, emotional regulation and social isolation, compared with the control group. And while all participants had a body mass index (BMI) within the normal range, the BMIs of trauma-exposed children were significantly lower than those of the control group.

 

To test the long-term impact of stress-induced ghrelin elevation in the rat model, the research team exposed two other groups of animals to 14 days of either chronic stress induction or daily handling. Two weeks later both groups went through a standard behavioral protocol called fear conditioning, which trained them to expect an unpleasant sensation -- a mild but not painful foot shock -- when they heard a specific sound. After they learn that association, animals will typically 'freeze' in expectation of the shock when they hear that sound. Compared to the control animals, the chronic-stress-exposed rats showed a stronger fear memory by freezing longer during the sound when it was not paired with a shock.

 

To test whether blocking ghrelin signaling could reduce the stress-enhanced fear response, the researchers administered a drug that blocks the ghrelin receptor to groups of rats over three different schedules -- throughout both the two-week chronic stress induction period and the two weeks prior to fear conditioning, during the stress induction period only or during only the two weeks between stress induction and fear conditioning. While blocking the ghrelin receptor for the full four weeks did eliminate the stress-induced enhanced fear response, blocking ghrelin signaling either only during or only after stress induction did not prevent the enhanced response.

 

"It appears that blocking the ghrelin receptor throughout the entire period of ghrelin elevation -- both during and after stress -- prevents fear enhancement when the animals subsequently encounter a traumatic event," says Goosens. "But only blocking the receptor during stress, when ghrelin is initially elevated, or after stress, when it remains elevated, does not prevent the fear-enhanced, PTSD-like response."

 

She adds, "Previous work from my lab shows that exposing brain cells to high levels of ghrelin reduces their sensitivity to the hormone, which we call 'ghrelin resistance.' We've also shown that ghrelin inhibits fear in unstressed individuals, and we believe that stress-induced ghrelin resistance interferes with that inhibition. Finding a way to reverse ghrelin resistance could have important therapeutic implications. The ability to identify individuals who are more vulnerable to the detrimental effects of stress, as well as the 'tipping point' when they become vulnerable, could enable early intervention with either therapy or medication."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180411220806.htm

Severe war injuries and PTSD can impact hypertension risk

March 19, 2018

Science Daily/American Heart Association

US service members severely injured in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars or diagnosed with PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) face a greater risk of high blood pressure. Injury severity and PTSD were each independently associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure.

 

PTSD, a mental health disorder that stems from a traumatic or life-threatening event, has been previously linked to risk of high blood pressure and other issues, including substance abuse, obesity, coronary artery disease, and suicide.

 

The new study reviewed records of 3,846 U.S. service members in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who received intensive care for combat injuries sustained from February 2002 until February 2011. Their average age when they were wounded was 26. More than 14 percent of combatants developed high blood pressure at least 90 days after being wounded. How severe initial injuries were, and how frequently PTSD was noted in medical records after the wounding, separately affected later risk of hypertension, the study found.

 

"What we found surprised us. PTSD does appear to increase the risk of hypertension," said Maj. Ian J. Stewart, M.D., the study's senior author, who works from the David Grant U.S. Air Force Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base in California. "But we thought that hypertension risk from the injury would depend on the presence of PTSD. Instead, increased hypertension risk is additive to the injury itself," said Stewart.

 

The study incorporated each service member's Injury Severity Score, a scale ranging from 1 to 75 that gauges the total impact of multiple injuries, based on assessment of six body regions.

 

For instance, a third-degree burn covering 20 percent of the skin's surface, plus a concussion and minor scalp cut, would yield a score of 11. A traumatic amputation at the hip would be scored at 16, and a 60 percent third-degree burn plus six rib fractures would be scored at 41.

 

The study found that for every five-point increase in Injury Severity Score, overall risk of high blood pressure rose 5 percent. Patients with an Injury Severity Score of 25 or lower and no recorded PTSD diagnosis had the lowest hypertension risk.

 

Compared with patients who had no record of a PTSD diagnosis, those with 1 to 15 PTSD notations in their files had an 85 percent higher risk of hypertension. Those who had PTSD noted more than 15 times -- suggesting the condition was more chronic -- had 114 percent increase in the risk of high blood pressure, the study found.

 

As in other studies, this research found that age, acute kidney injury and race were associated with risk of developing high blood pressure. Risk increased about 5 percent for every year older a veteran was, and was 69 percent higher for African-Americans, compared with whites. Suffering acute injury to the kidneys, which play a key role in regulating blood pressure, also was linked to a higher risk for hypertension.

 

It's important for policy makers to better understand Iraq and Afghanistan veterans' long-term potential health-related risks and costs, Stewart said. He cited a report from Harvard Kennedy School estimating those could total about $970 billion, including almost $288 billion in direct medical costs, over the next 40 years.

 

"Veterans suffer long after wars end and wounds heal," he said. "Our society will be paying the price for years to come."

 

The study included up to 10 years' worth of records following each wounded service member, reflecting care in both Department of Defense health facilities and medical visits through the TRICARE program, a health care program of the U.S. Department of Defense Military Health System.

 

Stewart and his colleagues suspect that development of high blood pressure and other chronic medical conditions after combat injury might generally be traced through three routes:

 

through PTSD or other mental health conditions that arise, such as depression or anxiety;

through physiological changes, including inflammatory or metabolic responses,

or due to lifestyle changes such as smoking or gaining weight. More research into these areas is needed, the authors note.

High blood pressure is defined as blood pressure readings 130/80 mm Hg and above. Untreated, it can lead to stroke, heart and kidney disease, vision loss and sexual dysfunction.

 

Strengths of the study include the high number of medical visits recorded for each patient, and the use of Department of Defense databases that allowed researchers to track patients over time rather than rely on individuals' own accounts. However, the study did not follow patients in real time, and couldn't control for differences in how blood pressure readings were taken. The study also lacked biological data such as measurements of inflammatory markers, and information about behaviors such as smoking that impact future health.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180319090719.htm

Nightmares are common but underreported in US military personnel

Nearly one in three military personnel meet criteria for nightmare disorder

March 15, 2018

Science Daily/American Academy of Sleep Medicine

A new study shows that a high percentage of military personnel with sleep disturbances met criteria for nightmare disorder, but few of them reported nightmares as a reason for sleep evaluation. Those with nightmare disorder had an increased risk of other sleep and mental health disorders.

 

Results show that 31 percent of military participants had clinically significant nightmares, and trauma-related nightmares occurred in 60 percent of them. Participants who met criteria for nightmare disorder were five times more likely to have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), four times more likely to have depression, three times more likely to have anxiety, and two times more likely to have insomnia. Despite their common presence, nightmares were reported as a sleep-related concern by only 3.9 percent of military personnel.

 

"This research provides a basis for furthering the study and knowledge of nightmares in survivors of traumatic experiences," said principal investigator Dr. Jennifer Creamer, medical director of the Sleep Medicine Center at Martin Army Medical Center in Fort Benning, Georgia. "Treatment of nightmares can lead to improvement in sleep, quality of life, and other disorders such as suicidality."

 

The study results are published in the March 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

 

Nightmares are vivid, realistic and disturbing dreams typically involving threats to survival or security, which often evoke emotions of anxiety, fear or terror. A nightmare disorder may occur when repeated nightmares cause distress or impairment in social or occupational functioning.

 

According to the authors, this was the largest study to assess clinically significant nightmares in an active duty population referred for the evaluation of sleep disorders. The study involved 493 active duty U.S. military personnel. Participants had a mean age of 38 years, and 78.5 percent were men. Participants predominantly served in the Army (45.6 percent) and Air Force (45.2 percent); 9.2 percent served in the Navy/Marines. Approximately 74 percent of them had been deployed. Those with trauma-related nightmares were more likely to have traumatic brain injury, PTSD, anxiety and depression.

 

Nightmares beginning within three months of a trauma are present in up to 80 percent of patients with PTSD, and these post-traumatic nightmares may persist throughout life. Post-traumatic nightmares may take the form of a realistic reliving of a traumatic event or may depict only some of its elements or emotional content.

 

"Nightmare disorder is highly prevalent but under-recognized in military personnel with sleep disturbances," said Creamer.

 

A best practice guide from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine indicates that treatment options for nightmare disorder include medications, most prominently prazosin. Several behavioral therapies also can be effective, such as image rehearsal therapy and other nightmare-focused cognitive behavioral therapy variants.

 

"Military personnel and health care providers require education that nightmares are not normal and there are treatments available," added Creamer.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180315091305.htm

Scientists find heightened attention to surprise in veterans with PTSD

January 9, 2018

Science Daily/Virginia Tech

Scientists have found that people with PTSD have an increased learning response to surprising events. While most everyone reacts to surprise, people with PTSD tend to pay even more attention to the unexpected.

 

Fireworks on nights other than the fourth of July or New Year's Eve might be nothing more than inconsiderate neighbors, but for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the shock of noise and light may trigger a deeply learned expectation of danger.

 

Scientists at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute (VTCRI) have found that people with PTSD have an increased learning response to surprising events. While most everyone reacts to surprise, people with PTSD tend to pay even more attention to the unexpected.

 

The study was published this week in eLife, an open-access journal published by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society, and the Wellcome Trust.

 

"Disproportionate reactions to unexpected stimuli in the environment are a core symptom of PTSD," said Pearl Chiu, an associate professor at the VTCRI and the lead author on the study. "These results point to a specific disruption in learning that helps to explain why these reactions occur."

 

Chiu and her team used functional MRI to scan the brains of 74 veterans, all of whom had experienced trauma while serving at least one combat tour in Afghanistan or Iraq. Some of the study participants were diagnosed with PTSD, while others were not. In the functional MRI, participants played a gambling game, in which they learned to associate certain choices with monetary gains or losses.

 

"Computer science and mathematics have given us new tools to understand how the brain learns. We used these tools to study whether and how learning might play a role in PTSD," said Chiu, who is also an associate professor of psychology in Virginia Tech's College of Science. "These results suggest that people with PTSD don't necessarily have a disrupted response to unexpected outcomes, rather they pay more attention to these surprises," Chiu said.

 

The researchers found that people with PTSD had significantly more activity in the parts of their brains associated with how much attention they paid to surprising events when the learning task threw an unexpected curve ball their way.

 

"Fireworks unexpectedly going off after a person has exchanged fire in the field can trigger an over-estimation of danger," said Brooks King-Casas, an associate professor at the VTCRI who co-led the study. "Particularly for individuals with PTSD, unexpected surprising events -- noise or otherwise -- could be a matter of life or death. The study shows that while everyone is affected by unexpected events, in PTSD extra attention is given to these surprises."

 

King-Casas is also an associate professor of psychology in Virginia Tech's College of Science and an associate professor in the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences.

 

Earlier studies have connected greater attention to perceived threats and unexpected events in PTSD, but the mechanistic underpinning of this hypersensitivity to unexpected outcomes have been unclear until now.

 

"The work by Brown and colleagues is an important step forward to be able to differentiate the brain and behavioral processes that are affected as a consequence of post-traumatic stress," said Martin Paulus, a medical doctor and the scientific director and president of the Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was not involved in this study. "The finding that individuals with PTSD have difficulty appropriately allocating attention to their environment when it changes has clear implications for the development of novel behavioral interventions."

 

Vanessa Brown, first author on the paper and a graduate student in the department of psychology in Virginia Tech's College of Science, said that both the behavioral and neural findings show that people with PTSD pay more attention to surprise while learning.

 

"This disrupted learning increases with more severe PTSD," said Brown, who is conducting her dissertation research in Chiu's laboratory at the VTCRI. "Now that we understand how attention to surprise plays a role in PTSD, we may be able to refine our assessment tools or develop new interventions that target specific learning disruptions in people with PTSD or other psychiatric disorders."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180109090251.htm

Traumatic brain injury causes intestinal damage

Two-way brain-gut interactions may worsen outcome after TBI

December 6, 2017

Science Daily/University of Maryland School of Medicine

A two-way link between traumatic brain injury and intestinal changes has been uncovered by research. These interactions may contribute to increased infections in these patients, and may also worsen chronic brain damage.

 

This is the first study to find that TBI in mice can trigger delayed, long-term changes in the colon and that subsequent bacterial infections in the gastrointestinal system can increase posttraumatic brain inflammation and associated tissue loss. The findings were published recently in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

 

"These results indicate strong two-way interactions between the brain and the gut that may help explain the increased incidence of systemic infections after brain trauma and allow new treatment approaches," said the lead researcher, Alan Faden, MD, the David S. Brown Professor in Trauma in the Departments of Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Psychiatry, Neurology, and Neurosurgery at UMSOM, and director of the UMSOM Shock, Trauma and Anesthesiology Research Center.

 

Researchers have known for years that TBI has significant effects on the gastrointestinal tract, but until now, scientists have not recognized that brain trauma can make the colon more permeable, potentially allowing allow harmful microbes to migrate from the intestine to other areas of the body, causing infection.. People are 12 times more likely to die from blood poisoning after TBI, which is often caused by bacteria, and 2.5 times more likely to die of a digestive system problem, compared with those without such injury.

 

In this study, the researchers examined mice that received an experimental TBI. They found that the intestinal wall of the colon became more permeable after trauma, changes that were sustained over the following month.

 

It is not clear how TBI causes these gut changes. A key factor in the process may be enteric glial cells (EGCs), a class of cells that exist in the gut. These cells are similar to brain astroglial cells, and both types of glial cells are activated after TBI. After TBI, such activation is associated with brain inflammation that contributes to delayed tissue damage in the brain. Researchers don't know whether activation of ECGs after TBI contributes to intestinal injury or is instead an attempt to compensate for the injury.

 

The researchers also focused on the two-way nature of the process: how gut dysfunction may worsen brain inflammation and tissue loss after TBI. They infected the mice with Citrobacter rodentium, a species of bacteria that is the rodent equivalent of E. coli, which infects humans. In mice with a TBI who were infected with this the bacteria, brain inflammation worsened. Furthermore, in the hippocampus, a key region for memory, the mice who had TBI and were then infected lost more neurons than animals without infection.

 

This suggests that TBI may trigger a vicious cycle, in which brain injury causes gut dysfunction, which then has the potential to worsen the original brain injury. "These results really underscore the importance of bi-directional gut-brain communication on the long-term effects of TBI," said Dr. Faden.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171206174243.htm

Patients with post-traumatic stress disorder respond differently to certain sounds

November 30, 2017

Science Daily/University of Birmingham

A new neurobiological marker have have just been found to help recognize patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

 

Using an electroencephalogram (EEG) -- a test that detects electrical activity in a person's brain via electrodes attached to their scalp -- researchers studied the brain activity of a group of thirteen patients with PTSD. The group was then compared to a group who had suffered a similar trauma but had not gone on to develop PDST.

 

PTSD is estimated to affect about one in every ten people who have a traumatic experience. It can develop immediately after someone experiences a disturbing event or it can occur weeks, months or even years later and can affect a person's memory.

 

The type of events that can cause PTSD include serious road accidents, violent personal assaults, witnessing violent deaths, military combat, being held hostage, terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

 

Dr Ali Mazaheri, of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology and Centre for Human Brain Health, said of the study published in Nature Scientific Reports: "We know that a symptom of PTSD can be heightened sensory sensitivity.

 

"In this study, we tested the brain's response to a simple auditory sensory change by playing simple (standard 1000Hz) tones every second, and then intermittently playing a slightly altered tone (1200 Hz), known as a deviant.

 

"What we found was that patients who had developed PTSD showed enhanced brain responses to deviant tones, suggesting their brain over-processed any change in the environment.

 

"Importantly we found the more enhanced their response was, the more poorly they performed on cognitive tests looking at memory."

 

Katrin Bangel, of the University of Amsterdam, said: "This is the first research study of its kind. The neurobiological evidence we now have shows how altered brain activity of a patient with PTSD is closely related to the way it processes the world.

 

"What's more, this study is very unique in that it compared PTSD patients with a control group of those that also suffered similar trauma but didn't develop PTSD, rather than a control group who had no trauma or PTSD -- this really allows us to look at what triggers PTSD following significant trauma.

 

"We now potentially have a new neurobiological marker for PTSD patients that maps to their own individual symptoms.

 

"This marker, if validated, could be used to assess if an individual is getting better with treatment. It can also be potentially used in diagnosing patients."

 

Professor Dr Miranda Olff, of the University of Amsterdam and Arq Psychotrauma Expert Group, said: "This area of research is incredibly important.

 

"Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events.

 

"Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt.

 

"They may also have problems sleeping, such as insomnia, and find concentrating difficult.

 

"These symptoms are often severe and persistent enough to have a significant impact on the person's day-to-day life.

 

"Therefore it is vital that we find new ways to treat the condition and also assess treatment outcomes."

 

The team has now begun further research validating the marker and also plans a clinical trial to test potential treatments on patients with PTSD.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171130093952.htm

Injury from contact sport has harmful, though temporary effect on memory

November 14, 2017

Science Daily/McMaster University

Neuroscientists studying sports-related head injuries have found that it takes less than a full concussion to cause memory loss, possibly because even mild trauma can interrupt the production of new neurons in a region of the brain responsible for memory.

 

Though such losses are temporary, the findings raise questions about the long-term effects of repeated injuries and the academic performance of student athletes.

 

The researchers spent months following dozens of athletes involved in high-contact sports such as rugby and football, and believe that concussions and repetitive impact can interrupt neurogenesis -- or the creation of new neurons -- in the hippocampus, a vulnerable region of the brain critical to memory.

 

The findings were presented today (Tuesday, November 14th) at the Society for Neuroscience's annual conference, Neuroscience 2017, in Washington D.C.

 

"Not only are newborn neurons critical for memory, but they are also involved in mood and anxiety," explains Melissa McCradden, a neuroscience postdoctoral fellow at McMaster University who conducted the work. "We believe these results may help explain why so many athletes experience difficulties with mood and anxiety in addition to memory problems."

 

For the study, researchers administered memory tests and assessed different types of athletes in two blocks over the course of two years. In the first block, they compared athletes who had suffered a concussion, uninjured athletes who played the same sport, same-sport athletes with musculoskeletal injuries, and healthy athletes who acted as a control group.

 

Concussed athletes performed worse on the memory assessment called a mnemonic similarity test (MST), which evaluates a person's ability to distinguish between images that are new, previously presented, or very similar to images previously presented.

 

In the second study, rugby players were given the MST before the season started, halfway through the season, and one month after their last game. Scores for injured and uninjured athletes alike dropped midseason, compared to preseason scores, but recovered by the postseason assessment.

 

Both concussed and non-concussed players showed a significant improvement in their performance on the test after a reprieve from their sport.

 

For the concussed athletes, this occurred after being medically cleared to return to full practice and competition. For the rugby players, they improved after approximately a month away from the sport.

 

If neurogenesis is negatively affected by concussion, researchers say, exercise could be an important tool in the recovery process, since it is known to promote the production of neurons. A growing body of new research suggests that gentle exercise which is introduced before a concussed patient is fully symptom free, is beneficial.

 

"The important message here is that the brain does recover from injury after a period of reprieve," says McCradden. "There is a tremendous potential for the brain to heal itself."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171114104225.htm

Role of gut microbiome in posttraumatic stress disorder: More than a gut feeling

October 25, 2017

Science Daily/Stellenbosch University

The bacteria in your gut could hold clues to whether or not you will develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after experiencing a traumatic event.

 

PTSD is a serious psychiatric disorder that can develop after a person experiences a life-threatening trauma. However, not everyone exposed to a traumatic event will develop PTSD, and several factors influence an individual's susceptibility, including living conditions, childhood experiences and genetic makeup. Stellenbosch University researchers are now also adding gut bacteria to this list.

 

In recent years, scientists have become aware of the important role of microbes existing inside the human gastrointestinal tract, called the gut microbiome. These microbes perform important functions, such as metabolising food and medicine, and fighting infections. It is now believed that the gut microbiome also influences the brain and brain function by producing neurotransmitters/hormones, immune-regulating molecules and bacterial toxins.

 

In turn, stress and emotions can change the composition of the gut microbiome. Stress hormones can affect bacterial growth and compromise the integrity of the intestinal lining, which can result in bacteria and toxins entering the bloodstream. This can cause inflammation, which has been shown to play a role in several psychiatric disorders.

 

"Our study compared the gut microbiomes of individuals with PTSD to that of people who also experienced significant trauma, but did not develop PTSD (trauma-exposed controls). We identified a combination of three bacteria (Actinobacteria, Lentisphaerae and Verrucomicrobia) that were different in people with PTSD," explains the lead researcher, Dr Stefanie Malan-Muller. She is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

 

Individuals with PTSD had significantly lower levels of this trio of bacteria compared to trauma-exposed control groups. Individuals who experienced trauma during their childhood also had lower levels of two of these bacteria (Actinobacteria and Verrucomicrobia). "What makes this finding interesting, is that individuals who experience childhood trauma are at higher risk of developing PTSD later in life, and these changes in the gut microbiome possibly occurred early in life in response to childhood trauma," says Malan-Muller. She collaborated with researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder on the study.

 

One of the known functions of these bacteria is immune system regulation, and researchers have noted increased levels of inflammation and altered immune regulation in individuals with PTSD. "Changes in immune regulation and increased inflammation also impact the brain, brain functioning and behaviour. Levels of inflammatory markers measured in individuals shortly after a traumatic event, was shown to predict later development of PTSD.

 

"We therefore hypothesise that the low levels of those three bacteria may have resulted in immune dysregulation and heightened levels of inflammation in individuals with PTSD, which may have contributed to their disease symptoms," explains Malan-Muller.

 

However, researchers are unable to determine whether this bacterial deficit contributed to PTSD susceptibility, or whether it occurred as a consequence of PTSD.

 

"It does, however, bring us one step closer to understanding the factors that might play a role in PTSD. Factors influencing susceptibility and resilience to developing PTSD are not yet fully understood, and identifying and understanding all these contributing factors could in future contribute to better treatments, especially since the microbiome can easily be altered with the use of prebiotics (non-digestible food substances), probiotics (live, beneficial microorganisms), and synbiotics (a combination of probiotics and prebiotics), or dietary interventions."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171025103140.htm

Psychological toll of shame in military personnel

October 25, 2017

Science Daily/British Psychological Society (BPS)

Feelings of shame may make the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) more severe in current and former members of the Armed Services, suggests new research.

 

That is the conclusion of research published in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology by a team led by Dr Katherine C. Cunningham from the Department of Veterans Affairs Mid-Atlantic Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center, Durham, North Carolina.

 

In the forthcoming article, Dr Cunningham and colleagues say, "The military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in increased awareness of the impact of war on military service members. Many returning service members and veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD, which is associated with poorer physical health, unemployment, legal problems, relationship conflict and reduced quality of life."

 

The research study, conducted at The University of Tulsa in Oklahoma, surveyed 61 American service personnel and veterans who completed an online psychological survey covering PTSD symptom severity as well as trauma-related guilt and trauma-related shame.

 

When the results were analysed, the researchers found that both shame and guilt predicted the presence of PTSD, jointly accounting for 46 per cent of the variance in its severity. However, they also found that trauma-related shame accounted for significantly more of that variance than trauma-related guilt.

 

In this study, the feeling of guilt was defined as being associated with having done something wrong, for instance "I didn't keep my friend safe in combat" or "I killed civilians during the war." Shame was defined as a belief that one is intrinsically and irrevocably flawed, for example "I'm a failure" or "I'm a monster."

 

In other words, guilt arises from the belief that you have done a bad thing and shame from the belief that you are a bad person.

 

Dr Cunningham said, "Guilt may result in more prosocial behaviour, because the underlying attributions are tied to a specific harmful action and not to one's identity. Feeling guilty can motivate an attempt to repair and strengthen social relationships by making amends, while feeling shame can lead people to withdraw from society.

 

"The findings of our study provide additional evidence that we should see shame and guilt as distinct emotions with unique roles in PTSD. Given shame's greater importance in explaining PTSD symptom severity, we should pay more attention to understanding and ameliorating it."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171025122609.htm

Better sleep, less fear

Rapid eye movement sleep may dampen sensitivity to fearful stimuli

October 23, 2017

Science Daily/Society for Neuroscience

Higher quality sleep patterns are associated with reduced activity in brain regions involved in fear learning, according to a study of young adults. The results suggest that baseline sleep quality may be a useful predictor of susceptibility to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

 

Sleep disturbances are a common feature of PTSD. While previous research has focused on understanding how single nights of sleep influence the maintenance of already-established fear memories, few studies have investigated whether an individual's regular sleeping habits prior to trauma contributes to the acquisition of these fear memories.

 

Itamar Lerner, Shira Lupkin and their colleagues at Rutgers University had students monitor their sleep at home for one week using unobtrusive sleep monitoring tools, including a headband that measures brain waves, a bracelet that measures arm movements, and a sleep log. The students then participated in a neuroimaging experiment during which they learned to associate a neutral image with a mild electric shock. Students who spent more time in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep -- the phase when dreaming occurs -- exhibited weaker modulation of activity in, and connectivity between, their amygdala, hippocampus and ventromedial prefrontal cortex during fear learning.

 

The authors replicated these results in a second study using traditional polysomnographic monitoring of sleep during the night just prior to fear learning. Taken together, the findings are consistent with the idea that REM sleep reduces levels of norepinephrine in the brain, which may dampen an individual's sensitivity to fearful stimuli. 

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171023140920.htm

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