Adolescence/Teens10

Research finds naps plus sleep may enhance emotional memory in early childhood

August 22, 2018

Science Daily/University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Neuroscientists report for the first time evidence that naps and overnight sleep may work together to benefit memory in early childhood.

 

In a new study by sleep researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, neuroscientists led by Rebecca Spencer report for the first time evidence that naps and overnight sleep may work together to benefit memory in early childhood. Details appear today online in Scientific Reports.

 

Spencer, with her former doctoral student Laura Kurdziel in the department of psychological and brain sciences, who is now at Merrimack College, North Andover, Mass., and former undergraduate Jessica Kent, report that for children in this study, "Individually, the nap and overnight sleep bouts were not sufficient to induce changes in memory. A significant benefit of napping was observed only when changes across the entire 24-hour period were considered. This supports an interplay between the nap and subsequent overnight sleep in the consolidation of memories in young children."

 

The researchers say another highlight of their work is finding that naps do contribute to emotion processing in preschool children, which is consistent with parents' and early childhood teachers' observations, though this benefit in emotional memory is delayed, say Spencer and colleagues. This delay may reflect "short-term destabilization of an enriched memory," they add. That is, "there may be measurable benefits in behavior, even if not in memories themselves."

 

"A common observation of parents and preschool teachers is that children seem either grumpy or giddy when they skip their nap," says Spencer. "Our results are consistent with these observations of caregivers. Naps do contribute to emotion processing at this young age."

 

As she and colleagues explain, earlier research in adults has shown that emotion processing and emotional memory are enhanced with sleep, and there are suggestions that naps may support emotional regulation and emotional memory for toddlers, as well. But the prevailing "REM sleep hypothesis of emotional processing" says that REM sleep is required for this benefit, and naps lack this sleep stage. Instead, 42 percent of naps in toddlers consist of slow-wave sleep.

 

Thus the researchers set out to explore whether naps can contribute to memory consolidation for memories with emotional valence -- either good or bad emotional content -- in early childhood. To do this, they presented children ages approximately three to five years (34-64 months) with faces paired with mean or nice word descriptions, but they saw no significant main effects of emotional valence on recognition memory. Change in memory accuracy also did not differ when tested after a nap compared to the change in memory accuracy after an interval awake, they report.

 

However, when memory was tested again following overnight sleep, the change in memory accuracy was greater if the child had napped the previous day. Further, Spencer and colleagues report, greater nap slow wave activity was associated with greater memory decay during the nap. Yet nap slow wave activity also predicted greater overnight improvement in memory. Together, "these results suggest that sleep bouts can interact to benefit memory in early childhood," they conclude.

 

Study results were based on the performance of 49 children who were shown emotionally neutral photos of men's and women's faces paired with "mean" or "nice" statements, such as "Lena is always nice. Today she helped us pour milk into our cups at lunch time." Recognition of the familiar face versus an unfamiliar one was tested at three points: immediately after learning, after a delay either with a nap or awake, and again the next day. Children who did not nap were kept awake with quiet play items before the delayed test.

 

Around their normal bed time, parents brought the child to the sleep laboratory where they were fitted with an electroencephalography cap with electrodes for recording sleep stages during the night. Children awoke naturally from this and went about their normal morning routines before again being tested after 24 hours.

 

Overall, the authors report, "results of this study are consistent with those in procedural memory consolidation in preschool-aged children." As in observations by others, "both a nap and subsequent overnight sleep was necessary to observe performance benefits."

 

"This study demonstrates that napping is beneficial to memory processing," they point out. "Given the importance of socio-emotional learning in preschool naps averaging 70 minutes may support the curricular goals of early childhood education. As such, napping remains an important part of the daily preschool schedule and sufficient time for sleep should be protected."

 

This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and an Honors Research Grant from UMass Amherst's Commonwealth Honors College to Jessica Kent.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180822082559.htm

Math with good posture can mean better scores

Sitting up straight aids performance, researchers find

August 3, 2018

Science Daily/San Francisco State University

A new study finding that students perform better at math while sitting with good posture could have implications for other kinds of performance under pressure

 

If you've ever felt like a deer in the headlights before taking a math test or speaking before a large group of people, you could benefit from a simple change in posture. As part of a new study by researchers at San Francisco State University, 125 college students were tested to see how well they could perform simple math -- subtracting 7 from 843 sequentially for 15 seconds -- while either slumped over or sitting up straight with shoulders back and relaxed. Fifty-six percent of the students reported finding it easier to perform the math in the upright position.

 

"For people who are anxious about math, posture makes a giant difference," said Professor of Health Education Erik Peper. "The slumped-over position shuts them down and their brains do not work as well. They cannot think as clearly." Before the study began, students filled out an anonymous questionnaire asking them to rate their anxiety levels while taking exams and performing math; they also described any physical symptoms of stress they experienced during test taking.

 

According to co-author Associate Professor of Health Education Richard Harvey, slumping over is a defensive posture that can trigger old negative memories in the body and brain. While the students without math anxiety did not report as great a benefit from better posture, they did find that doing math while slumped over was somewhat more difficult.

 

Peper and Harvey say these findings about body position can help people prepare for many different types of performance under stress, not just math tests. Athletes, musicians and public speakers can all benefit from better posture prior to and during their performance. "You have a choice," said Peper. "It's about using an empowered position to optimize your focus."

 

That empowerment could be particularly helpful to students facing the challenge called "stereotype threat," said Lauren Mason, one of the paper's authors and a recent SF State graduate. A first-generation college student, Mason can identify with such students, who experience fear and insecurity because of a belief by others -- which can become internalized -- that they won't do as well at math. Mason said she has benefitted personally from using a more empowered posture before taking difficult tests, including math. She believes that adopting a more confident posture could help other first-generation students as well as women entering science and math, who often battle stereotype threat, too.

 

"I always felt insecure about my math abilities even though I excelled at other subjects," said Mason, who helped design the experiment in the study. "You build a relationship with [math] so early -- as early as elementary school. You can carry that negative self-talk throughout your life, impacting your perception of yourself."

 

Mason said the study results demonstrate a simple way to improve many aspects of life, especially when stress is involved: "The way we carry ourselves and interact in space influences not only how others perceive us but also how we perceive ourselves."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180803160212.htm

Mobile phone radiation may affect memory performance in adolescents

July 19, 2018

Science Daily/Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute

Radiofrequency electromagnetic fields may have adverse effects on the development of memory performance of specific brain regions exposed during mobile phone use, suggests a recent study involving nearly 700 adolescents in Switzerland.

 

The rapid evolution of information and communication technologies (ICT) goes along with an increase in exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) in our daily life. The most relevant exposure source to the brain is the use of a mobile phone close to the head. Several studies have been conducted to identify potential health effects related to RF-EMF, though results have remained inconclusive.

 

The research conducted by scientists at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) looked at the relationship between exposure to RF-EMF from wireless communication devices and memory performance in adolescents. The study follows up a report published in the scientific journal Environment International in 2015 with twice the sample size and more recent information on the absorption of RF-EMF in adolescent brains during different types of wireless communication device use. These are the world's first epidemiological studies to estimate cumulative RF-EMF brain dose in adolescents.

 

Media usage and brain exposure in young adults

 

The study to be published on 23 July 2018 found that cumulative RF-EMF brain exposure from mobile phone use over one year may have a negative effect on the development of figural memory performance in adolescents, confirming prior results published in 2015. Figural memory is mainly located in the right brain hemisphere and association with RF-EMF was more pronounced in adolescents using the mobile phone on the right side of the head. "This may suggest that indeed RF-EMF absorbed by the brain is responsible for the observed associations." said Martin Röösli, Head of Environmental Exposures and Health at Swiss TPH.

 

The rapid evolution of information and communication technologies (ICT) goes along with an increase in exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) in our daily life. The most relevant exposure source to the brain is the use of a mobile phone close to the head. Several studies have been conducted to identify potential health effects related to RF-EMF, though results have remained inconclusive.

 

The research conducted by scientists at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) looked at the relationship between exposure to RF-EMF from wireless communication devices and memory performance in adolescents. The study follows up a report published in the scientific journal Environment International in 2015 with twice the sample size and more recent information on the absorption of RF-EMF in adolescent brains during different types of wireless communication device use. These are the world's first epidemiological studies to estimate cumulative RF-EMF brain dose in adolescents.

 

Media usage and brain exposure in young adults

 

The study to be published on 23 July 2018 found that cumulative RF-EMF brain exposure from mobile phone use over one year may have a negative effect on the development of figural memory performance in adolescents, confirming prior results published in 2015. Figural memory is mainly located in the right brain hemisphere and association with RF-EMF was more pronounced in adolescents using the mobile phone on the right side of the head. "This may suggest that indeed RF-EMF absorbed by the brain is responsible for the observed associations." said Martin Röösli, Head of Environmental Exposures and Health at Swiss TPH.

 

Other aspects of wireless communication use, such as sending text messages, playing games or browsing the Internet cause only marginal RF-EMF exposure to the brain and were not associated with the development of memory performance. "A unique feature of this study is the use of objectively collected mobile phone user data from mobile phone operators." said Röösli. He emphasised that further research is needed to rule out the influence of other factors. "For instance, the study results could have been affected by puberty, which affects both mobile phone use and the participant's cognitive and behavioural state."

 

The data gathered from the Health Effects Related to Mobile phone usE in adolescentS (HERMES) cohort looked at the relationship between exposure to RF-EMF and development of memory performance of almost 700 adolescents over the course of one year. Participants, aged 12 to 17 years, were recruited from 7th to 9th public school grades in urban and rural areas of Swiss-German speaking Switzerland.

 

Minimising the risk of RF-EMF exposure

 

The potential effect of RF-EMF exposure to the brain is a relatively new field of scientific inquiry. "It is not yet clear how RF-EMF could potentially affect brain processes or how relevant our findings are in the long-term." said Röösli. "Potential risks to the brain can be minimised by using headphones or the loud speaker while calling, in particular when network quality is low and the mobile phone is functioning at maximum power."

 

About the publication

 

The study was conducted by Swiss TPH in collaboration with the European Union project GERoNiMO, which aims to improve the knowledge of whether and to what extent RF-EMF affects health. The work on dose calculations was conducted in collaboration with Belgian scientists. The project was funded by the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180719121803.htm

Therapy dogs effective in reducing symptoms of ADHD

July 18, 2018

Science Daily/University of California - Irvine

Researchers have found therapy dogs to be effective in reducing the symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children.

 

In a first of its kind randomized trial, researchers from the UCI School of Medicine found therapy dogs to be effective in reducing the symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. The study's main outcomes were recently published by the American Psychological Association in the Society of Counseling Psychology's Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin (HAIB). Additional new findings were presented at the International Society for Anthrozoology 2018 Conference held July 2-5 in Sydney, Australia.

 

Titled, "A Randomized Controlled Trial of Traditional Psychosocial and Canine-Assisted Interventions for Children with ADHD," the research involved children aged 7 to 9 who had been diagnosed with ADHD and who had never taken medicines for their condition. The study randomized participants to compare benefits from evidenced-based, "best practice" psychosocial interventions with the same intervention augmented by the assistance of certified therapy dogs. The research was led by Sabrina E. B. Schuck, PhD, MA, executive director of the UCI Child Development Center and assistant professor in residence in the Department of Pediatrics at UCI School of Medicine.

 

Results from Schuck's research indicate children with ADHD who received canine assisted intervention (CAI) experienced a reduction in inattention and an improvement in social skills. And, while both CAI and non-CAI interventions were ultimately found to be effective for reducing overall ADHD symptom severity after 12 weeks, the group assisted by therapy dogs fared significantly better with improved attention and social skills at only eight weeks and demonstrated fewer behavioral problems. No significant group differences, however, were reported for hyperactivity and impulsivity.

 

"Our finding that dogs can hasten the treatment response is very meaningful," said Schuck. "In addition, the fact that parents of the children who were in the CAI group reported significantly fewer problem behaviors over time than those treated without therapy dogs is further evidence of the importance of this research."

 

Guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics for the management of ADHD underscore the importance of both psychopharmacological and psychosocial therapies. Patients who receive psychosocial therapy prior to medications have shown to fare better. Additionally, many families prefer not to use medications in young children.

 

"The take away from this is that families now have a viable option when seeking alternative or adjunct therapies to medication treatments for ADHD, especially when it comes to impaired attention," said Schuck. "Inattention is perhaps the most salient problem experienced across the life span for individuals with this disorder."

 

This study is the first known randomized controlled trial of CAI for children with ADHD. It illustrates that the presence of therapy dogs enhances traditional psychosocial intervention and is feasible and safe to implement.

 

Animal assisted intervention (AAI) has been used for decades, however, only recently has empirical evidence begun to support these practices reporting benefits including reduced stress, improved cognitive function, reduced problem behaviors and improved attention.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180718170258.htm

The scent of coffee appears to boost performance in math

Smelling a coffee-like scent, which has no caffeine in it, creates an expectation for students that they will perform better on tests

July 17, 2018

Science Daily/Stevens Institute of Technology

Research reveals that the scent of coffee alone may help people perform better on the analytical portion of the Graduate Management Aptitude Test, or GMAT, a computer adaptive test required by many business schools.

 

Drinking coffee seems to have its perks. In addition to the physical boost it delivers, coffee may lessen our risk of heart disease, diabetes and dementia. Coffee may even help us live longer. Now, there's more good news: research at Stevens Institute of Technology reveals that the scent of coffee alone may help people perform better on the analytical portion of the Graduate Management Aptitude Test, or GMAT, a computer adaptive test required by many business schools.

 

The work, led by Stevens School of Business professor Adriana Madzharov, not only highlights the hidden force of scent and the cognitive boost it may provide on analytical tasks, but also the expectation that students will perform better on those tasks. Madzharov, with colleagues at Temple University and Baruch College, recently published their findings in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.

 

"It's not just that the coffee-like scent helped people perform better on analytical tasks, which was already interesting," says Madzharov. "But they also thought they would do better, and we demonstrated that this expectation was at least partly responsible for their improved performance." In short, smelling a coffee-like scent, which has no caffeine in it, has an effect similar to that of drinking coffee, suggesting a placebo effect of coffee scent.

 

In their work, Madzharov and her team administered a 10-question GMAT algebra test in a computer lab to about 100 undergraduate business students, divided into two groups. One group took the test in the presence of an ambient coffee-like scent, while a control group took the same test -- but in an unscented room. They found that the group in the coffee-smelling room scored significantly higher on the test.

 

Madzharov and colleagues wanted to know more. Could the first group's boost in quick thinking be explained, in part, by an expectation that a coffee scent would increase alertness and subsequently improve performance?

 

The team designed a follow-up survey, conducted among more than 200 new participants, quizzing them on beliefs about various scents and their perceived effects on human performance. Participants believed they would feel more alert and energetic in the presence of a coffee scent, versus a flower scent or no scent; and that exposure to coffee scent would increase their performance on mental tasks. The results suggest that expectations about performance can be explained by beliefs that coffee scent alone makes people more alert and energetic.

 

Madzharov, whose research focuses on sensory marketing and aesthetics, is looking to explore whether coffee-like scents can have a similar placebo effect on other types of performance, such as verbal reasoning. She also says that the finding -- that coffee-like scent acts as a placebo for analytical reasoning performance -- has many practical applications, including several for business.

 

"Olfaction is one of our most powerful senses," says Madzharov. "Employers, architects, building developers, retail space managers and others, can use subtle scents to help shape employees' or occupants' experience with their environment. It's an area of great interest and potential."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180717125836.htm

Children with better coordination more likely to achieve at school

July 11, 2018

Science Daily/University of Leeds

Young children with better eye-to-hand coordination were more likely to achieve higher scores for reading, writing and math according to new research -- raising the possibility schools could provide extra support to children who are clumsy.

 

Just over 300 children aged four to 11 took part in computer tasks to measure their co-ordination and interceptive timing -- their ability to interact with a moving object.

 

The study, led by researchers at the University of Leeds, is published in the peer-review journal Psychological Science.

 

The tasks designed to measure eye-to-hand coordination involved steering, taking aim and tracking objects on a computer screen.

 

In the 'interceptive timing' task, the children had to hit a moving object with an on-screen bat.

 

This task taps into a fundamental cognitive ability -- how the brain predicts the movement of objects through time and space. The researchers suggest that this skill may have provided the evolutionary foundations for the emergence of cognitive abilities related to mathematics, a theory first proposed by the famous Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget in the 1950s.

 

After controlling for age, the results revealed that the children who did better at the eye-to-hand coordination tasks tended to have higher academic attainment in reading, writing and maths.

 

Those with the best performance at the 'steering task' in particular were on average nine months ahead of classmates who struggled.

 

However, the researchers found that while the children's interceptive timing skills tended to predict their attainment in mathematics, it did not influence reading and writing development.

 

This was an observational study, identifying statistically significant associations between the ability to process what is happening in the physical world and educational attainment. It does not demonstrate direct cause and effect.

 

Mark Mon-Williams, Professor of Cognitive Psychology at the University of Leeds who supervised the research, said: "The results show that eye-to-hand co-ordination and interceptive timing are robust predictors of how well young children will perform at school."

 

This research builds on recent findings from other studies which suggested that the ability of babies aged between six and 13 months to understand the world around them had an impact on their ability to manipulate numbers when they reached the age of four.

 

Professor Mon-Williams said: "The current thinking among psychologists is that the neural circuitry used to build up a child's understanding of their external environment, the way they orientate themselves spatially and understand their world is also used to process numbers and more abstract thinking. It also raises the question: should schools be identifying those children who are seen as clumsy or not so well coordinated and giving them extra support?

 

"The study identifies the important relationship between a child's ability to physically interact with their environment and their cognitive development, those skills needed by the child to think about and understand the world around them."

 

The University of Leeds' study was conducted at Lilycroft Primary School in Bradford, West Yorkshire, where Headteacher Nicola Roth is applying the findings of the research.

 

The school has remodelled its reception, indoor and outdoor areas to include a space where children can develop their motor skills and the ability to call on large muscle groups to co-ordinate movement.

 

She said: "As a school we decided to harness the research findings. We have decided that our pupils should be encouraged to develop motor skill and eye to hand co-ordination throughout their time at the school.

 

"Playing with construction equipment toys used to stop when children reached the ages of five or six but we have decided to continue with that until they are nine years old. This is one of the ways we have implemented the findings, it is a simple step that can have significant benefits for the children's wider education."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180711093224.htmChildren with better coordination more likely to achieve at school

Seeing yourself as Einstein may change the way you think

July 9, 2018

Science Daily/Frontiers

People experiencing Albert Einstein's body as their own through a virtual reality simulation were less likely to unconsciously stereotype older people, while those with low self-esteem scored better on a cognitive test. The results suggest that the experience allowed people with low self-esteem to change how they saw themselves and increase their cognitive potential. The technique could be useful for education, particularly for those with low self-esteem.

 

"Virtual reality can create the illusion of a virtual body to substitute your own, which is called virtual embodiment," says Professor Mel Slater of the University of Barcelona. "In an immersive virtual environment, participants can see this new body reflected in a mirror and it exactly matches their movements, helping to create a powerful illusion that the virtual body is their own."

 

Previous research found that virtual embodiment can have striking effects on attitudes and behavior. For example, white people who experienced a virtual black body showed less unconscious stereotyping (called implicit bias) of black people.

 

"We wondered whether virtual embodiment could affect cognition," says Slater. "If we gave someone a recognizable body that represents supreme intelligence, such as that of Albert Einstein, would they perform better on a cognitive task than people given a normal body?"

 

To find out, the researchers recruited 30 young men to participate in a virtual embodiment experiment. Prior to the embodiment, the participants completed three tests: a cognitive task to reveal their planning and problem-solving skills; a task to quantify their self-esteem; and one to identify any implicit bias towards older people. This final task was to investigate whether the experience of having an older appearance simulation could change attitudes to older people.

 

The study participants then donned a body-tracking suit and a virtual reality headset. Half experienced a virtual Einstein body and the other half a normal adult body. After completing some exercises in the virtual environment with their new body, they repeated the implicit bias and cognitive tests.

 

The researchers found that people with low self-esteem performed the cognitive task better following the virtual Einstein experience, compared with those who experienced a normal body of someone their own age. Those exposed to the Einstein body also had a reduced implicit bias against older people.

 

Bias is based on considering someone to be different from yourself. Being in an older body may have subtly changed the participants' attitudes by blurring the distinction between elderly people and themselves.

 

Similarly, being in the body of someone extremely intelligent may have caused the participants to think about themselves differently, allowing them to unlock mental resources that they don't normally access.

 

Crucially, these cognitive enhancements only occurred in people with low self-esteem. The researchers hypothesize that those with low self-esteem had the most to gain by changing how they thought about themselves. Seeing themselves in the body of a respected and intelligent scientist may have enhanced their confidence during the cognitive test.

 

To further investigate the phenomenon, a larger study with more participants -- and including men and women -- is needed. However, the results so far suggest that the technique could be useful in education.

 

"It is possible that this technique might help people with low self-esteem to perform better in cognitive tasks and it could be useful in education," says Slater.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180709101200.htm

'Find your passion' may not be the best advice after all

Researchers discover negative implications in suggesting that interests are pre-formed and just need to be 'found'

July 3, 2018

Science Daily/Yale-NUS College

As the world becomes increasingly interdisciplinary, having diverse interests can help people make important connections across fields, such as between the Arts and Sciences. A new study suggests that one's belief about the nature of interests might prevent those insights from happening.

 

Dr O'Keefe collaborated with Stanford University Professor Carol S Dweck, a psychologist known for her work in fixed and growth theories, as well as Associate Professor Gregory M Walton, also from Stanford. While fixed and growth theories about intelligence -- beliefs about the malleability of intellectual abilities -- have been heavily researched, applying this idea to people's interests is a new area of investigation. The team's research is forthcoming in Psychological Science, in which they examined the implications of fixed and growth theories of interest.

 

The research is of particular relevance to countries like Singapore, where students typically begin to specialise early in their education. Such early specialisation might discourage a growth theory by limiting the exploration of academic interests. However, since 2006, Singapore's education system began requiring GCE A-level students to take at least one contrasting subject for admission into one of the six local autonomous universities. Research investigating a growth theory of interest will become more important in terms of understanding how to encourage students to explore new or different topics and value them more.

 

Across five studies, the team showed that a fixed theory, as compared to a growth theory, causes people to be less receptive to topics that are outside their existing interests. For example, in one study, the researchers recruited undergraduates with a well-established interest in either the Arts or the Sciences. Then, they had the students read two academic articles, one appealing to each of the two academic areas. Those led to endorse a fixed theory, as compared to a growth theory, reported less interest in the article outside of their established interest.

 

The researchers also found that fixed and growth theories influence one's motivational expectations for pursuing their interests and passions. In one study, the researchers sparked students' interest in astrophysics by having them watch a fun, animated video on the topic. Then, participants read a challenging academic article on the same topic. Those with a fixed theory reported losing more interest in the topic once engaging in it became difficult, as compared to those with a growth theory. This is because people with a fixed theory tend to expect that pursuing a newly discovered interest will be relatively easy, and might give up on it when engaging in it becomes difficult. They may come to believe that it was not a true interest after all.

 

The finding that a growth theory can make people more open to new interests, and that it can help sustain their interest despite difficulties, has important implications. Dr O'Keefe highlighted that in an increasingly complex and interconnected world, viewing interests as developable is important for encouraging innovation as new and interdisciplinary solutions are needed. Believing one's interests are fixed might hinder exploration into other areas.

 

Instead of finding your passion, the researchers suggest that people should develop their passion.

 

"Encouraging people to develop their passion can not only promote a growth theory, but also suggests that it is an active process, not passive. A hidden positive implication of a growth theory is the expectation that pursuing one's interests and passions will be difficult at times because people are less likely to give up on them when faced with a challenge," Dr O'Keefe explained.

 

Dr O'Keefe is currently researching the impact of fixed and growth theories of interest in Singapore schools, as well as how teaching students to develop a growth theory can improve their learning and achievement.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180703110021.htm

Health of mom's gut a key contributor to autism risk

Could reducing risk of autism involve changing expectant mothers' diets?

July 18, 2018

Science Daily/University of Virginia Health System

The mother's microbiome, the collection of microscopic organisms that live inside us, is a key contributor to the risk of autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders in her offspring, new research suggests. The work raises the possibility that we could help prevent autism by altering expectant moms' diets.

 

Further, the UVA scientists were able to use their discovery to prevent the development of autism-like neurodevelopmental disorders in lab mice. They found they could halt the development of such disorders by blocking a particular inflammatory molecule produced by the immune system. Targeting this molecule, interleukin-17a, offers another potential avenue for preventing autism in people, the researchers say. They caution, however, that this approach would be much more complex because of the risk of side effects.

 

"We determined that the microbiome is a key contributor in determining susceptibility [to autism-like disorders], so it suggests that you could target either the maternal microbiome or this inflammatory molecule, IL-17a," said lead researcher John Lukens, PhD, of UVA's Department of Neuroscience. "You could also use this [IL-17a] as a biomarker for early diagnosis."

 

The groundbreaking work from Lukens and his colleagues sheds light on the complex relationship between the health of the mother's microbiome and the healthy development of her children. "The microbiome can shape the developing brain in multiple ways," explained Lukens, of UVA's Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG) and UVA's Carter Immunology Center. "The microbiome is really important to the calibration of how the offspring's immune system is going to respond to an infection or injury or stress."

 

But an unhealthy microbiome in the mom can create problems: Lukens' work shows that it can make her unborn offspring susceptible to neurodevelopmental disorders. The researchers found that the IL-17a molecule was a key contributor to the development of autism-like symptoms in lab mice.

 

The good news: The microbiome can be modified easily, either through diet, probiotic supplements or fecal transplant. All of these approaches seek to restore a healthy equilibrium among the different microorganisms that live in the gut.

 

"In terms of translating our work to humans, I think the next big step would be to identify features of the microbiome in pregnant mothers that correlate with autism risk," Lukens said. "I think the really important thing is to figure out what kind of things can be used to modulate the microbiome in the mother as effectively and safely as we can."

 

Another Option for Preventing Autism

 

Blocking IL-17a also might offer a way to prevent autism, but Lukens said that path carries much more risk. "If you think about pregnancy, the body is basically accepting foreign tissue, which is a baby," he said. "As a result, maintenance of embryonic health demands a complex balance of immune regulation, so people tend to shy away from manipulating the immune system during pregnancy."

 

IL-17a previously has been implicated in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and psoriasis, and there are already drugs available that target it. But Lukens noted that the molecule has an important purpose in stopping infections, especially fungal infections. Blocking it, he said, "could make you susceptible to all kinds of infections." And doing so during pregnancy could have complex ripple effects on a child's development that scientists would need to sort out.

 

For their next steps, Lukens and his team plan to explore the potential role of other immune molecules in the development of autism and other such conditions. IL-17a may be just one piece in a much larger puzzle, he said.

 

While Lukens' work links the immune system with neurodevelopmental disorders, he emphasized that this in no way suggests that vaccines are contributing to the development of autism. "There's a definite link between the immune response and the developing brain," he said. "It just doesn't have anything to do with vaccines. It's much, much earlier."

 

Lukens' work is but the latest research from UVA to speak to the importance of the microbiome in maintaining good health. For example, one of Lukens' colleagues in the Department of Neuroscience, Alban Gaultier, PhD, found that probiotics in yogurt can reverse depression symptoms.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180718113343.htm

Teenagers can thank their parents' positive attitude for avoiding obesity

July 9, 2018

Science Daily/University of Bristol

Teenagers are less likely to be overweight if their mum or dad had a positive attitude during pregnancy, a new study finds.

 

Using answers from more than 7000 parents who took part in the Children of the 90s longitudinal study about their personality, mood and attitude during pregnancy; similar answers from their children at age of eight and the child's fat mass measurement up to the age of 17, researchers have assessed that a mother's psychological background during pregnancy is a factor associated with teenage weight gain.

 

The study examines a largely uncharted personality attribute known as the Locus of Control. It is a psychological measure for an individual's attitudes towards their lifestyle and a belief in being able to change outcomes, such as health, through their own actions. Someone with an external Locus of Control would feel that there is little point in making an effort as what happens to them is down to luck and circumstance.

 

Researchers found that teenagers at age 15 had an excess weight of actual fat in their body of 1.7kg if their mothers did not think their actions would make a difference and held a laissez-faire attitude. If their fathers had this attitude the excess weight of fat was 1.49kg and if the child thought this way the excess was 1.5kg.

 

Lead author and founder of the Children of the 90s study Professor Jean Golding said: "Although we know that poor diet and lack of exercise are partly responsible for increasing obesity in both adults and children in the developed world, there is little research into the contribution of psychological factors behind excessive weight gain.

 

"Thanks to the questionnaires and body measurements available through the Children of the 90s study we've been able to show that a lack of self-belief in a parent's ability to influence change by healthy eating, stopping smoking or breast feeding is a contributing factor to their child being overweight by the time they are 15.

 

"This is important research for health campaigners looking to change behaviours and the next steps should be looking at the differences between parents who managed to change their Locus of Control compared to those who did not change."

 

Candler Professor of Psychology Stephen Nowicki at Emory University, Atlanta contributed to the study and added "We see this as an initial step in understanding the complex effects of parents' locus of control on their children's ability to develop a healthy style during the, at times tumultuous teen age years.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180709120159.htm

Parent-child therapy helps young children with depression

Early intervention supports kids in processing emotions

June 20, 2018

Science Daily/Washington University School of Medicine

New research demonstrates that an interactive therapy involving parents and their depressed preschoolers can reduce rates of depression and lower the severity of children's symptoms.

 

Children as young as 3 can be clinically depressed, and often that depression recurs as kids get older and go to school. It also can reappear during adolescence and throughout life.

 

But new research from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis demonstrates that an interactive therapy involving parents and their depressed children can reduce rates of depression and lower the severity of children's symptoms.

 

"By identifying depression as early as possible and then helping children try to change the way they process their emotions, we believe it may be possible to change the trajectory of depression and perhaps reduce or prevent recurrent bouts of the disorder later in life," said principal investigator Joan L. Luby, MD, director of the university's Early Emotional Development Program.

 

The findings are published June 20 in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

 

Luby's team adapted a treatment known as Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) that was developed in the 1970s to correct disruptive behavior in preschoolers. The adaptation involved adding a series of sessions focused on emotions.

 

"We consider depression to be an impairment of the ability to experience and regulate emotions," said Luby, the Samuel and Mae S. Ludwig Professor of Psychiatry.

 

The 18-week, 20-session therapy program begins with a truncated version of the traditional PCIT program, then focuses more on enhancing emotional development.

 

"For example, we coach parents how to manage a child's emotional responses to stressful situations," Luby said.

 

Among the ways of doing so is an activity in which researchers place a package for a child in a room and then make the child wait to open it. The parent wears an earpiece and is coached by a therapist observing through a one-way mirror. The idea is to give children tools to keep their emotions under control, and to train parents to help their children reinforce those tools.

 

Luby's team studied 229 parent-child pairs. Children in the study were 3 to 7 years old and had been diagnosed with depression. Half received the adapted therapy, called PCIT-ED.

 

Compared with children who were placed on a wait list before starting the therapy, those who received the intervention right away had lower rates of depression after 18 weeks and less impairment overall. If depression continued after the treatment, it tended to be less severe than that seen in the kids who had not yet received therapy.

 

Luby said children in the study will be followed to see how long the effects of the therapy last. Her team is analyzing data gathered three months after treatment ended to see whether improvements were maintained or whether any depression symptoms had returned by that point. The researchers hope to follow the children into adolescence to see whether intervention in early childhood provides sustained benefits.

 

They also are conducting brain-imaging as part of the study. In previous research, Luby and her colleagues found that brain changes linked to depression can alter the brain's structure and function, making the children potentially vulnerable to future problems. Now they want to learn whether this interactive therapy might prevent or reverse those previously identified brain changes.

 

Interestingly, the researchers also found that symptoms of clinical depression improved in the parents who worked with their children during the study.

 

"Even without targeting the parent directly, if a parent has been depressed, his or her depression improves," Luby said. "It previously had been demonstrated that if you treat a parent's depression, a child's depression improves, but this is powerful new data suggesting that the reverse also is true."

 

Luby added that the therapy program doesn't require a psychiatrist and can be delivered by master's degree-level clinicians.

 

"This is a therapy that could be widely disseminated," she said. "Since it only takes 18 weeks and doesn't require a child psychologist or psychiatrist, we think it would be highly feasible to deliver in community clinics from a practical standpoint and in terms of cost."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180620094812.htm

Helicopter parenting may negatively affect children's emotional well-being, behavior

Children with overcontrolling parents may later struggle to adjust in school and social environments

June 18, 2018

Science Daily/American Psychological Association

It's natural for parents to do whatever they can to keep their children safe and healthy, but children need space to learn and grow on their own, without Mom or Dad hovering over them, according to new research. The study found that overcontrolling parenting can negatively affect a child's ability to manage his or her emotions and behavior.

 

"Our research showed that children with helicopter parents may be less able to deal with the challenging demands of growing up, especially with navigating the complex school environment," said Nicole B. Perry, PhD, from the University of Minnesota, and lead author of the study. "Children who cannot regulate their emotions and behavior effectively are more likely to act out in the classroom, to have a harder time making friends and to struggle in school."

 

Children rely on caregivers for guidance and understanding of their emotions. They need parents who are sensitive to their needs, who recognize when they are capable of managing a situation and who will guide them when emotional situations become too challenging. This helps children develop the ability to handle challenging situations on their own as they grow up, and leads to better mental and physical health, healthier social relationships and academic success. Managing emotions and behavior are fundamental skills that all children need to learn and overcontrolling parenting can limits those opportunities, according to Perry.

 

The researchers followed the same 422 children over the course of eight years and assessed them at ages 2, 5 and 10, as part of a study of social and emotional development. Children in the study were predominantly white and African-American and from economically diverse backgrounds. Data were collected from observations of parent-child interactions, teacher-reported responses and self-reports from the 10-year-olds.

 

During the observations, the research team asked the parents and children to play as they would at home.

 

"Helicopter parenting behavior we saw included parents constantly guiding their child by telling him or her what to play with, how to play with a toy, how to clean up after playtime and being too strict or demanding," said Perry. "The kids reacted in a variety of ways. Some became defiant, others were apathetic and some showed frustration."

 

Overcontrolling parenting when a child was 2 was associated with poorer emotional and behavioral regulation at age 5, the researchers found. Conversely, the greater a child's emotional regulation at age 5, the less likely he or she was to have emotional problems and the more likely he or she was to have better social skills and be more productive in school at age 10. Similarly, by age 10, children with better impulse control were less likely to experience emotional and social problems and were more likely to do better in school.

 

"Children who developed the ability to effectively calm themselves during distressing situations and to conduct themselves appropriately had an easier time adjusting to the increasingly difficult demands of preadolescent school environments," said Perry. "Our findings underscore the importance of educating often well-intentioned parents about supporting children's autonomy with handling emotional challenges."

 

Perry suggested that parents can help their children learn to control their emotions and behavior by talking with them about how to understand their feelings and by explaining what behaviors may result from feeling certain emotions, as well as the consequences of different responses. Then parents can help their children identify positive coping strategies, like deep breathing, listening to music, coloring or retreating to a quiet space.

 

"Parents can also set good examples for their children by using positive coping strategies to manage their own emotions and behavior when upset," said Perry.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180618102627.htm

Brain matures faster due to childhood stress

June 15, 2018

Science Daily/Radboud University Nijmegen

Stress in early childhood leads to faster maturation of certain brain regions during adolescence. In contrast, stress experienced later in life leads to slower maturation of the adolescent brain.

 

In 1998, the group -- which then comprised 129 one-year-olds and their parents -- was tested for the first time. Over the past 20 years, researchers studied, inter alia, their play sessions and interactions with parents, friends and classmates. The children were also subjected to MRI scans. This wealth of data has enabled Karin Roelofs, Professor of Experimental Psychopathology, her PhD student Anna Tyborowska and other colleagues of Radboud University to investigate how stress in various life stages affected the adolescent brain of these children.

 

More specifically, they looked at the effects on cerebral maturation. During adolescence, our brain experiences a natural pruning process in which previously made connections between brain cells are refined, allowing the creation of more useful and efficient networks.

 

More pruning due to early life stress

 

The researchers investigated two types of stressors -- negative life events and negative influences from the social environment -- in two life stages of their subjects: early childhood (0-5 years) and adolescence (14-17 years). They related these stress levels to the maturation of the prefrontal cortex, amygdala and hippocampus. These brain regions play an important role in functioning in social and emotional situations and are known to be sensitive to stress.

 

Stress due to negative experiences during childhood , such as illness or divorce, appears to be related to faster maturation of the prefrontal cortex and amygdala in adolescence. However, stress resulting from a negative social environment during adolescence, such as low peer esteem at school, is connected to slower maturation of the brain area hippocampus and another part of the prefrontal cortex. 'Unfortunately, in this study we can't say with certainty that stress causes these effects. However, based on animal studies we can hypothesize that these mechanisms are indeed causal,' Anna Tyborowska says.

 

Loss of flexibility

 

'The fact that early childhood stress accelerates the maturation process during adolescence is consistent with theories of evolutionary biology,' says Tyborowska. 'From an evolutionary perspective, it is useful to mature faster if you grow up in a stressful environment. However, it also prevents the brain from adjusting to the current environment in a flexible way. In other words, the brain become "mature" too soon.' The researchers were surprised to find, however, that social stress later in life seems to lead to slower maturation during adolescence. Tyborowska: 'What makes this interesting is that a stronger effect of stress on the brain also increases the risk of developing antisocial personality traits'.

 

Tyborowska is now conducting the eleventh round of measurements, with the subjects now being in their twenties. 'Now that we know that stress affects the maturation of brain regions that also play a role in the control of emotions, we can investigate how this development continues later in life'.

 

Longitudinal study from Nijmegen

 

The Nijmeegse Longitudinale Studie (Nijmegen Longitudinal Study) was initiated in 1998. This study aims to investigate how the development and functioning of children at various ages is influenced by their interactions with parents and peers and how this relates to their disposition and personality. Several research groups have access to the data collected from the subjects (at present about 100). Other research topics include mother-child relationships, bullying and risk behaviour. This long-term study is one of the few worldwide in which so many measurements are taken over such a long period.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180615094830.htm

Today's dads are engaging more with their kids

Fatherhood norms shifting alongside masculinity

June 12, 2018

Science Daily/Brigham Young University

Whether it's physically being there for a baseball game or piano recital, or emotionally being there to provide warmth or support in a tough time, there appears to be a shift in how fathers are viewing their roles.

 

Sociologists at BYU and Ball State have found that a majority of fathers today are relatively involved in their children's lives.

 

Whether it's physically being there for a baseball game or piano recital, or emotionally being there to provide warmth or support in a tough time, there appears to be a shift in how fathers are viewing their roles.

 

"We found that today's dads spend more time, provide more care and are more loving toward their kids than ever before," said Kevin Shafer, BYU sociology professor and a co-author of the study. "Most dads see themselves as playing an equally important role in helping their children as mothers do. At the same time, however, there is a group of dads who believe they are to be breadwinners, disciplinarians and nothing more."

 

The study also showed a correlation between fathers who exhibit negative aspects of traditional masculinity and fathers who are less involved with their children.

 

"It's important to understand what masculinity is and is not," Shafer said. "In some circles, when people hear terms like hegemonic or toxic masculinity, they think those are attacking all men. Not so. There are some very beneficial aspects of masculinity -- being goal-oriented or being loyal, for example. However, we are talking about more problematic aspects of masculinity -- like aggression, detached relationships, not showing emotion and failing to ask for help. These are negative aspects of traditional masculinity, and our research suggests it hurts families."

 

Shafer believes this new research has provided a better, broader examination of masculinity and fatherhood than in previous studies.

 

The study is published in the Journal of Marriage and Family and used data on 2,194 fathers from a national study on fathers of children ages 2 through 18.

 

The researchers assessed fathers' perceptions of negative masculine behaviors by evaluating responses to a variety of statements, such as "It is essential for the child's well?being that fathers spend time interacting and playing with their children" and "It is difficult for men to express warm and tender affectionate feelings toward children."

 

The results from the responses showed, on average:

 

·     Fathers of younger children engaged with them several times a week

·     Fathers of older children engaged with their child between once and several times a week and knew a lot about their child's activities

·     Fathers of younger and older children only sometimes engaged in harsh discipline

·     Fathers of younger children stated that warm behaviors toward their child are "very much like me"

·     Fathers of older children acted warm toward their child between often and always

·     Finally, fathers of older children also generally agreed that their child turns to them for emotional support

 

Previous research indicates that many fathers struggle with the balance of adhering to masculine norms while still being more emotionally available and nurturing toward their children. This has been more of a trend as of late, but not something drastically new. Sociologists have noted that over the past several decades, fatherhood ideals have continued to change due to shifting paternal expectations and behaviors.

 

"Fathers continue to navigate changing social expectations," said Lee Essig, another co-author of the study and BYU graduate student. "As current social trends are pushing for men's increased familial involvement, we see more fathers stepping up to engage more actively in their children's lives in various ways. As we teach boys and men to be more emotionally aware and cultivate emotional well-being, these men and boys will be able to become better fathers for their children, as they will be able to provide for them not only through financial contributions, but by being emotionally and mentally present for their children and their wellbeing."

 

Based on the study, the researchers provide the following reminders to fathers:

 

It's OK to show and feel your feelings. Doing so will help you be a better, more involved and engaged father.

 

·     Be an example. Children learn by example and demonstrating beliefs and attitudes that are supportive not only benefit the father-child relationship, but they also teach children positive behaviors.

·     There are many ways to be a man -- being a "tough guy" is associated with poor parenting, which can negatively affect children.

·     Fathers should not be afraid of being nurturing, caring and hands-on. Children and families all benefit when they do.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180612185124.htm

Music playschool enhances children's linguistic skills

June 11, 2018

Science Daily/University of Helsinki

Weekly music playschool significantly improved the development of children's vocabulary skills.

 

Several studies have suggested that intensive musical training enhances children's linguistic skills. Such training, however, is not available to all children.

 

Researchers at Cognitive Brain Research Unit in the University of Helsinki studied in a community setting whether a low-cost, weekly music playschool provided to 5-6-year-old children in kindergartens affects their linguistic abilities.

 

The children (N=66) were tested four times over two school-years with phoneme processing and vocabulary subtests, along with tests for perceptual reasoning skills and inhibitory control.

 

According to the results, published in Scientific Reports, music playschool significantly improved the development of children's phoneme processing and vocabulary skills, compared to their peers either attending to similarly organized dance lessons or not attending to either activity.

 

"Our data suggest that even playful group music activities -- if attended to for several years -- have a positive effect on preschoolers' linguistic skills," says the first author of the research, Tanja Linnavalli.

 

"Therefore we promote the concept of implementing regular music playschool lessons given by professional teachers in early childhood education."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180611133431.htm

Education linked to higher risk of short-sightedness

Findings have important implications for educational practices

June 6, 2018

Science Daily/BMJ

Spending more years in full time education is associated with a greater risk of developing short-sightedness (myopia).

 

The researchers say their study provides "strong evidence" that more time spent in education is a risk factor for myopia, and that the findings "have important implications for educational practices."

 

Myopia, or short-sightedness, is a leading cause of visual impairment worldwide. Currently, 30-50% of adults in the United States and Europe are myopic, with levels of 80-90% reported in school leavers in some East Asian countries.

 

Based on existing trends, the number of people affected by myopia worldwide is expected to increase from 1.4 billion to 5 billion by 2050, affecting about half of the world's population. Almost 10% of these people (around 9 million) will have high myopia, which carries a greater risk of blindness.

 

Many studies have reported strong links between education and myopia, but it is not clear whether increasing exposure to education causes myopia, myopic children are more studious, or socioeconomic position leads to myopia and higher levels of education.

 

So researchers based at the University of Bristol and Cardiff University set out to determine whether education is a direct (causal) risk factor for myopia, or myopia is a causal risk factor for more years in education.

 

Using a technique called Mendelian randomisation, they analysed 44 genetic variants associated with myopia and 69 genetic variants associated with years of schooling for 67,798 men and women aged 40 to 69 years from the UK Biobank database.

 

Analysing genetic information in this way avoids some of the problems that afflict traditional observational studies, making the results less prone to unmeasured (confounding) factors, and therefore more likely to be reliable.

 

An association that is observed using Mendelian randomisation therefore strengthens the inference of a causal relationship.

 

After taking account of potentially influential factors, Mendelian randomisation analyses suggested that every additional year of education was associated with more myopia (a refractive error of ?0.27 dioptres a year).

 

To put this into context, a university graduate from the UK with 17 years of education would, on average, be at least ?1 dioptre more myopic than someone who left school at 16 (with 12 years of education). This level of myopia would mean needing glasses for driving.

 

By contrast, there was little evidence to suggest that myopia led people to remain in education for longer.

 

The researchers point to some study limitations. For example, UK Biobank participants have been shown to be more highly educated, have healthier lifestyles, and report fewer health issues compared with the general UK population, which may have affected the results. However, there was little evidence that this could explain their findings.

 

"This study shows that exposure to more years in education contributes to the rising prevalence of myopia, and highlights a need for further research and discussion about how educational practices might be improved to achieve better outcomes without adversely affecting vision," they conclude.

 

In a linked editorial, Professor Ian Morgan at the Australian National University and colleagues say the evidence suggests that it is not only genes but environmental and social factors that may have major effects on myopia.

 

They point to East Asia, where early intense educational pressures combined with little time for play outdoors has led to almost 50% of children being myopic by the end of primary school, compared with less than 10% in a study of British children.

 

"Early onset allows more time for myopia to progress to high and potentially pathological myopia," they warn, and they argue that education systems "must change to help protect the visual health of future generations."

 

In a linked opinion piece, study author Denize Atan also points to evidence showing that time spent outdoors in childhood partially protects against the development of myopia.

 

Although reduced exposure to natural daylight might not be the sole mechanism to explain the association between education and myopia, she writes, "given the advantages of time spent outdoors on mental health and the protection it provides against obesity and chronic diseases, we might all benefit from spending more time outside."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180606185354.htm

Preterm newborns sleep better in NICU while hearing their mother's voice

Novel strategy can help improve sleep in a noisy neonatal intensive care unit

June 6, 2018

Science Daily/American Academy of Sleep Medicine

Hearing a recording of their mother's voice may help neonates maintain sleep while in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), according to preliminary data from a new study.

 

About 10 percent of U.S. newborns require treatment in a NICU, which is a noisy environment that could influence the development of newborn sleep patterns. This study explored the possibility that infants' exposure to their mother's voice in the NICU could modulate that impact.

 

Results indicate that newborns in a NICU were less likely to be awakened by noises when a recording of their mother's voice was playing. The study also found that newborns born at or after 35 weeks gestation show sleep-wake patterns that appear to respond increasingly with age to recorded maternal voice exposure. Similar associations were not found for infants born before 35 weeks gestation.

 

"Environmental noise can be remarkably high in the NICU and may influence neonatal sleep patterns," said principal investigator Dr. Renée Shellhaas, a clinical associate professor of pediatrics in the division of Pediatric Neurology at the University of Michigan. "Exposure to a mother's voice recording may insulate NICU patients from some of the impact of unavoidable noise by reducing the likelihood of wakefulness during the highest peak noise levels."

 

The study in a NICU involved 20 neonates born at or after 35 weeks gestation and 27 born preterm at 33-34 weeks. Their mothers were recorded reading children's books. The neonates underwent a 12-hour sleep evaluation by attended polysomnography. Each mother's recording was randomized to be played continuously for her child during either the first or second 6-hours of the polysomnogram.

 

Sleep-wake stage distributions, entropy, and EEG power were calculated for each 6-hour block. Quantitative sleep measures were evaluated as a function of gestational age, with adjustment for neurological examination scores. Data were compared for polysomnogram epochs with, versus without, the recorded maternal voice playing.

 

Newborn infants who are ill or born prematurely may require extended care in a neonatal ICU during a time of critical brain development. Shellhaas noted that interventions designed to improve sleep in newborns who require intensive care may need to be tailored according to gestational age.

 

"Our study results suggest an intervention as simple as playing a recording of the mother reading stories may result in improved sleep," said Shellhaas. "However, the impact of such interventions appears to be more significant for newborns who are near term gestation than for more premature infants."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180606170205.htm

Teenage girls are more impacted by sleepiness than teen boys are

Sleep disturbances in girls associated with more difficulties staying awake in and out of school

June 6, 2018

Science Daily/American Academy of Sleep Medicine

Preliminary results of a recent study show that teen girls reported a higher degree of interference of daytime sleepiness on multiple aspects of their school and personal activities than boys.

 

The study examined whether teen boys and girls report similar negative impact of sleep disturbances on their daytime functioning.

 

"What was most surprising is the fact that teenage girls reported a higher degree of interference of daytime sleepiness than teenage boys on multiple aspects of their school and personal activities," said co-author Pascale Gaudreault, who is completing her doctoral degree in clinical neuropsychology under the supervision of principal investigator Dr. Geneviève Forest at the Université du Québec en Outaouais in Gatineau, Québec, Canada. "For example, teenage girls have reported missing school significantly more often than teenage boys due to tiredness, as well as reported having lower motivation in school due to a poor sleep quality."

 

731 adolescents (311 boys; 420 girls; ages 13 to 17.5 years; grades 9-11) completed a questionnaire about sleep and daytime functioning. Questions were answered on a seven-point Likert scale (1=never; 7=often). Gender differences were assessed using t-tests.

 

Study results show that teenage girls reported more difficulties staying awake during class in the morning, during class in the afternoon, and during homework hours than boys. They also reported feeling too tired to do activities with their friends, missing school because of being too tired, feeling less motivated in school because of their poor sleep, and taking naps during weekends more often than boys. However, there was no gender difference when it came to using coffee or energy drinks to compensate for daytime sleepiness or for falling asleep in class.

 

"These results suggest that teenage girls may be more vulnerable than teenage boys when it comes to the negative impacts of adolescence's sleep changes," said Gaudreault.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180606143714.htm

Sleep paralysis and hallucinations are prevalent in student athletes

Study also suggests sleep disorders are associated with depression symptoms

June 4, 2018

Science Daily/American Academy of Sleep Medicine

Pilot data from a recent study suggest that sleep paralysis and dream-like hallucinations as you are falling asleep or waking up are widespread in student athletes and are independently associated with symptoms of depression.

 

Occasional sleep paralysis was reported by 18 percent of the sample, and 7 percent reported that this happens at least once per week. Hypnogogic/hypnopompic hallucinations (which are dream-like experiences that occur while falling asleep or waking up) were reported by 24 percent of the sample, and 11 percent reported that they experience these symptoms at least once per week.

 

Compared to those who never experience sleep paralysis or hypnogogic/hypnopompic hallucinations, those who did experience them -- even rarely -- also reported higher depression scores. This was even the case after controlling for how much sleep or what quality of sleep the person experienced.

 

"These symptoms are often thought to be relatively harmless and quite rare. But they can be very distressing to those who experience them, and they may be surprisingly common among student athletes," said senior author Michael Grandner, PhD, MTR, the director of the Sleep and Health Research Program and assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. "What was also surprising was that the degree to which people reported these symptoms predicted severity of depression symptoms, even after controlling for poor sleep and lack of sleep -- which can contribute to both depression and these types of sleep symptoms."

 

Data were collected from 189 NCAA Division-I student athletes, who were asked how often they experienced the symptoms of sleep paralysis and hypnogogic/hypnopompic hallucinations. Participants were also asked about sleep duration, and they completed the Insomnia Severity Index and the Centers for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale. Regression analyses examined depression score as outcome and sleep symptom as predictor in models adjusted for age and sex; as well as age, sex, insomnia severity, and sleep duration.

 

Student athletes often struggle to find time to rest due to their busy schedules. Shorter sleep duration and poor sleep quality contribute to disordered sleep in many student athletes. In addition, sleep symptoms such as sleep paralysis and hallucinations are more common in younger adults.

 

The preliminary findings of this study suggest that these symptoms may be warning signs of another medical problem.

 

"These sleep symptoms are usually harmless on their own, but they can be a sign of more serious sleep problems," said lead author Serena Liu, a student research assistant in the Sleep and Health Research Program directed by Grander. "The fact that they are so common among student athletes suggests that this is a group with some significant sleep problems that should be evaluated and dealt with."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180604093104.htm

Childhood communication enhances brain development, protecting against harmful behaviors

May 3, 2018

Science Daily/Elsevier

Children with greater parent communication in early adolescence have less harmful alcohol use and emotional eating in young adulthood.

 

The 14-year study, which followed participants from 11 to 25 years old, identified that the extent of communication between parents and children promotes the development of a brain network involved in the processing of rewards and other stimuli that, in turn, protects against the overconsumption of food, alcohol and drugs. In this way, robust parent-child communication has an impact on health behaviors in adulthood.

 

"It might mean that social interactions actually influence the wiring patterns of the brain in the teenage years," said John Krystal, MD, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. "It points to an important potential role of family interactions in brain development and the emergence of maladaptive behaviors in adulthood," he added.

 

The study, led by Christopher Holmes, PhD and colleagues from the University of Georgia's Center for Family Research, focused on rural African Americans, an understudied population that may be disproportionately at risk for these harmful health behaviors in young adulthood. In 2001, the research team began a longitudinal study involving rural African American families with a child 11 years of age. Between the ages of 11 and 13 years, participants reported on interactions with their parents, including the frequency of discussions and arguing.

 

When the participants reached 25 years of age, a subsample of 91 participants was recruited from the larger study to take part in a neuroimaging session that measured brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Specifically, the researchers used fMRI to study a network of brain connections called the anterior salience network (ASN). The participants also answered questions about harmful alcohol use and emotional eating at age 25.

 

Greater parent-child communication in early adolescence predicted greater connectivity of the ASN at age 25, supporting the idea that high-quality parenting is important for long-term brain development. Greater ASN connectivity was, in turn, associated with lower harmful alcohol use and emotional eating at age 25. The findings point to the ASN as a brain mechanism for how parenting in childhood affects health behaviors in early adulthood.

 

"These findings highlight the value of prevention and intervention efforts targeting parenting skills in childhood as a means to foster long-term, adaptive neurocognitive development," said Allen Barton, PhD, corresponding author of the study.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180503101651.htm

Member Login
Welcome, (First Name)!

Forgot? Show
Log In
Enter Member Area
My Profile Not a member? Sign up. Log Out