Health/Wellness1

Healthy from Head to Toe: Strategies for Everyday Life

By: Scott Sanders info@cancerwell.org

Staying healthy isn’t always easy to do; when we’re busy, we tend to look for the easiest ways to get things done, from grabbing fast food instead of cooking dinner to taking shortcuts when it comes to a workout. Yet, healthy living is important if we want to live longer, happier lives, so it’s only natural that we look for ways to incorporate healthy strategies into our everyday routines. Whether this means eating better, creating an exercise routine you can stick to, or finding ways to reduce stress and negativity, it’s important to find what works for you. However, for individuals who have recently been diagnosed with cancer or are in remission, finding healthy habitsis especially important.

 

The key is to look for ways you can bring these healthy habits into your life in a way that will allow you to stick with them. Start by setting realistic goals; for instance, if you know that changing up your exercise routine will be difficult with your work schedule, think of ways you can merge the two gently so that you won’t overexert yourself. Keep reading for some great tips on how to incorporate healthy strategies into your life without the stress.

 

Boost Your Rest

 If your mattress is more than a few years old, it could be causing you pain or interfering with your ability to get quality rest. When dealing with an illness like cancer, which can cause enough pain on its own, it’s important to make sure your body can adequately recharge every night. A worn out, lumpy mattress can not only leave you feeling exhausted the next morning, it may exacerbate any pain you’re already experiencing. If it’s been more than seven years since you upgraded your mattress, it may be worthwhile to consider doing so. Look for one that will allow for proper spine alignmentto protect your back and muscles. 

 

Eat Well

 Eating wellis important for everyone, and when you’re trying to get your body back to a healthy place, it’s imperative to find the right diet for your needs. Talk to your doctor about which foods are best for building up your strength; focus on proteins, dark, leafy greens, and nuts and berries, which are wonderful for your immune systemand work as anti-inflammatories. Don’t try to make huge changes to your diet all at once, as this can leave you feeling stressed and overwhelmed, especially if your family includes picky eaters. Look for small ways you can improve the way you eat throughout the day and incorporate them into meals at home.

 

Look for Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress

 Stress is a major factor when it comes to your physical and mental health, so it’s imperative to look for ways to reduce those feelingsin the moment. You might learn deep breathing exercises, go for a short walk, or take a break from your smartphone or laptop screen for a little while. When you have more time, stress-busting activities might include practicing a hobby or doing something that calms you, such as reading. 

 

Get in a Workout

 Exercise is important for everyone at any age, but for those who have battled cancer, it’s especially important to build up muscle and healthy tissue. Talk to your doctor before starting any new regimen, and consider learning yoga,which combines physical activity with a mental health boost known as mindfulness. With yoga, you get a workout and have an opportunity to learn how to focus and drown out the noise of the outside world. 

 

Getting healthy -- and staying that way -- isn’t always easy, but with a few simple strategies in place, you can ensure that your body, mind, and soul are well taken care of. Take it slowly to avoid becoming overwhelmed, and remember to take breaks as often as you need them. 

How Music Helps with Mental Health – Mind Boosting Benefits of Music Therapy

By Will Tottle
www.myaudiosound.co.uk/music-therapy-benefits/ 

“If you were to look at those brains, you couldn’t tell the difference between people who were interacting through music and people who were interacting verbally” – Edward Roth

Music has been with us for thousands of years as a form of entertainment, communication, celebration, and mourning. There are so many different emotions that music can help us to express, and it is a language that we share universally, as well as one that everyone can understand. 

The style of music that we listen to most and enjoy may change every decade, but that sense of communication and feeling always remains. If you, or someone close to you, suffer from mental health conditions, you may find that they listen to music quite a lot, or even play it. 

Music has a way of helping us express emotions that we don’t even understand ourselves, and can put these feelings into meaningful lyrics, or just a tune that resonates with every fibre of our being. 

For many, music is a lifeline that keeps them tethered to the world, and without it, so many of us would be lost entirely. It is because of this link that music therapy was developed, and it is a great way to learn how to channel your feelings and combat mental illness. As someone who suffers from crippling anxiety and waves of depression, I have always been interested in trying this form of therapy out. 

Whether you like to play the music or listen to it, you might be surprised to discover how beneficial this form of treatment can be, and in this extensive article, we look at the different ways in which music therapy can boost mental health.

 

Part 1
Music Therapy: What it is and its General Impact

Part 2
Mental Health Statistics and Support

Part 3
How Music Can Help Mental Health

Part 4
ow Music Can Help the Elderly

Part 5
ow Music Can Help Children

Part 6
est Music for Mental Health

Part 7
ow to Start Music Therapy

 

Part 1

Music Therapy: What it is and its General Impact

What is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is classed as a form of expressive therapy that works to improve physical and mental health through the expression of emotions. There are two forms of music therapy, and these are called active and receptive. In the former, you will create music with your therapist or group (depending on the type of therapy you have sought).

This helps you to deal with emotions, alleviate stress, and can even relieve the symptoms of conditions like Alzheimer’s (something we will look at later). Receptive music therapy, on the other hand, is where you listen to music while you draw or partake in other relaxing activities.

In short, music therapy tends to consist of three potential activities: playing music, singing, or listening to music. You can either create your own music or learn to play specific pieces that you will practice and develop over time – it depends on your personal preferences. You also have plenty of choices, as you can decide what kind of music therapy you take as well as the type of music that you play.

One thing that makes a lot of people nervous is the fact that they do not know how to play a musical instrument. The great thing is that you don’t need to worry about that. Music therapy tends to involve instruments similar to the following: Drums, Cymbals, Wood blocks, Bells, Simple harps, Xylophone, Tambourines, Maracas.

These are basic instruments that don’t require skill or knowledge, and you can still have a great deal of fun playing them. Plus, they are just as expressive as a guitar or piano.

What Can it Do for Mental Health? 

So how does this form of therapy impact mental health, and what kind of general advantages can it have? We will look at the ways in which it can help specific mental illnesses later, but for now, here is what you can expect it to do for you as a whole.

For starters, music therapy starts conversation, and it gets you talking about topics that you would have otherwise found difficult to discuss by having you rework lyrics, but also analysing the words that go with some of the songs you love the most. It creates a relaxed environment in which to talk, and one that doesn’t feel frightening or like actual therapy – allowing you to talk about past and present feelings alike without fear of judgement.

Leading on from this, you may also get the chance to write your own songs. This engages the creative parts of your mind, and rewards you with a sense of pride and self-worth. You can choose the instruments that go with the way you are feeling and create something truly expressive.

Through playing the instruments and improvising new melodies, emotional expression is encouraged, as is better socialisation – especially if you are in a therapy group. It allows you to explore different ways of expressing emotion, and the sounds that are associated with things like rage, joy, and grief. You can also use it to learn how to control these emotions over time, using the music to transition between them.

You can listen to music in order to regulate your mood, and this is because of the way in which music is repetitive and engages the neocortex of the brain – calming you and reducing the desire to be impulsive. Music therapy will help you to stop matching the music to your mood, as depressing music can leave us stuck in a loop – a symptom that we explore later on. 

This teaches you better habits when listening to music, and can leave you with a boosted mood. To summarise, here are the top things music therapy can help you with:

  • Express yourself and talk about feelings you find difficult to process/discuss 
  • Deal with past trauma and emotions 
  • Improve social skills and emotion regulation 
  • Give you better faith and confidence in yourself 

 

Part 2

Mental Health Statistics and Support 

Before we move onto how music can help with specific mental health issues, here are some interesting statistics for you to look at, displaying how many people (roughly) in the USA and UK suffer from mental health issues and try to commit suicide.

Mental Health Problem

UK Statistics

USA Statistics

Generalised Anxiety Disorder 5.9/100 people 3.1%

Depression 3.3/100 people 8.3%

Phobias 2.4/100 people 8.7%

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder 1.3/100 people 1%

Panic Disorder 0.6/100 people 2.7%

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder 4.4/100 people 3.5%

Psychotic Disorder 0.7/100 people >1%

Bipolar Disorder 2.0/100 people 2.6%

Antisocial Personality Disorder 3.3/100 people 4%

Borderline Personality Disorder 2.4/100 people 1.6%

Mixed Anxiety and Depression 7.8/100 people 6.7%

Suicidal Thoughts 20.6/100 people 4%

Suicide Attempts 6.7/100 people 0.5%

Self-Harm 7.3/100 people 4% (adult) 15% (teen)

Never feel as though you are alone if you are struggling with your mental health. There are people you can call for help no matter where you are or what time it is. Below, you will find the top numbers to call for the UK and the USA if you find yourself in need of help.

UK: Samaritans (24/7) 116 123

USA: Suicide Prevention Lifeline (24/7) 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

 

Part 3

How Music Can Help Mental Health

Music therapy has only really become popular over the past couple of years, and as a result, there is not as much research as we would like for every mental health condition. To help you as much as we can, we have taken the mental illnesses with the most research and evidence, placing them here so that you can see the ways in which music therapy can help, and maybe even apply them to yourself if we are not able to cover it here.

Anxiety (General and Social)

Anxiety comes in many forms, from a mild version that causes some disturbance to a crippling beast that you just can’t shake. Regardless of the form you live with, it is a difficult illness to have, but also one that might be able to benefit from the excellence of music therapy.

When listening to music, or creating it, the levels of cortisol in our bodies is lowered dramatically, and this also decreases your heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels. It creates a more relaxed environment, and the longer you spend listening to/creating it in a chilled location, the better you are going to feel. Plus, it creates an enhanced feeling of satisfaction and pride when you create something.

Social anxiety works in much the same way, and spending some time listening to music will help you to feel calmer and more confident in your abilities and the plans you have made. Case studies have shown that patients who underwent music therapy for their anxiety ended up feeling less anxious and more relaxed by the time it was over, and this is a very positive step forward.

Depression 

One of the things we look at later on is the fact that sad music can actually make you feel more depressed than you were before, and so you need to try something different. Depression can be hard to cope with, regardless of how severe or mild your strain is, and music is often a great tool to help combat these feelings of failure and inadequacy.

NHS studies found that those who took music therapy courses were less likely to drop out of the sessions and had a higher attendance rating than those who took part in normal counselling. After three months of music therapy, the depression levels in the patients were much lower than when they left – especially when compared to the group that was receiving standard care.

Music can also reduce your blood pressure, leaving you feeling more relaxed and comfortable while you listen to tunes or create new ones. Being able to create something beautiful also offers you a sense of validation and self-worth, while also providing you with a good dose of serotonin to boost your mood and leave your day ending on a brighter note.

On the whole, music therapy gets you to socialise with others and express yourself, while also giving you the chance to grab onto a little happiness while you ride the wave out and start feeling a little normal again.

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

Whether you have been through singular or multiple traumas, there is a chance that you may have PTSD. This often consists of feelings of anxiety, tension, and dread, as well as vivid nightmares (or night terrors) and flashbacks to the event in question. Any way you slice it, this condition is not a kind one, and it can be very difficult to live with and try to overcome.

Studies have shown that PTSD can be successfully calmed with music. They show that music can actually reduce prominent symptoms of PTSD like emotionally-dysregulating intrusions, avoidance, mood swings, arousal, and high reactivity. It can lead to an improved ability to function properly, meaning that you can try to live your life as normally as possible once the music therapy starts to kick in.

The music works by triggering a release of good chemicals and hormones throughout the body, like dopamine and serotonin. These are able to work to distract the body from negative thoughts that have started, but also help to boost your mood overall so that you can start to feel a little better in yourself. 

The music travels through the brain and to the auditory cortex, which is linked to emotion, memory, and body control, so your mind can work together to create a more calming environment. 

OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)

Contrary to popular belief, OCD is not all about cleaning and washing your hands. It is also intrusive thoughts that won’t leave you alone and harmful habits that you never seem to be able to stop. It can be a stressful way to live, and one that feels as though you never get any respite from. Music can provide a little escape from your own mind, and be very beneficial while doing so.

There is a lot of pent-up frustration with OCD, and studies by Jose Van Den Hurk have shown that playing music can help those with OCD to properly express the way they feel over time, and as they become more comfortable around their therapist. 

This form of expression can even lead to physical talks about the way they are feeling and what they are struggling with. Music therapy can also increase spontaneity and the willingness to try something new and unpredictable. 

The OCD mind is often locked in routine, and the notion of doing something that has not been planned gets your mind out of that and has you focus on better and more positive things. It shuts down the thoughts that have been flooding through your mind because it is flowing and does not get stuck in loops like your head

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

While it is most commonly associated with children, ADHD does last into adulthood, and it can be just as difficult to cope with. A lack of concentration and focus, as well as seemingly endless energy,  can leave those that have the condition feeling drained and frustrated. The mind has too much going on, and there feels like it’s impossible to refocus it.

Music therapy has been shown to increase the amount of dopamine produced by the body, and this is the neurotransmitter responsible for concentration and working memory. People with ADHD have low levels of it, and so music provides a good and increased dose to keep things running smoothly. It also engages both sides of the brain, helping them to become stronger and also boosting creativity.

Due to both sides being activated at once, it also means that you can improve your concentration, and the distracted part of the mind is able to focus on the music while you concentrate on something else. This is part of improving multi-tasking as well as audio-processing and smoother thought processes.

Structure is an important part of life for those with ADHD, and music is always structured in some way – whether it’s in the lyrics or the very beat itself. The fact that it is so organised has a soothing effect, and also means that those with ADHD can start to learn how to lead more ordered lives. This is very positive because the ADHD mind needs a lot of routine to function efficiently.

Autism

Like ADHD, autism is a condition that lasts for life, and there are millions of adults across the world who have autism. It is a spectrum disorder, and it changes the way we think, feel, and behave. Symptoms can vary depending on where you are on the autism spectrum, and so music can yield different results depending on who you try it with.

There are many autistic adults that are non-verbal, and this makes trying to communicate a very stressful and frustrating task. However, music has been shown to aid this process – giving them a language that they can use to talk to those around them and tell everyone exactly how they feel. There have even been some cases where they have started to use words as well as the music, which is a massive breakthrough.

For everyone on the spectrum, it is a new way to communicate, improving social skills while also reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation. Since those with autism tend to show a higher interest in music than the average person, it is a great way to get people engaged and talking to each other.

Much like those with ADHD, people with autism also like structure and routine, something that music is full of, and it can invoke a sense of calm, as well as further interest in creating set rhythms of their own.

Insomnia 

It is a surprisingly common condition, the inability to fall asleep at night because the mind is racing with thoughts. We all have a hormone called noradrenaline, and this is what causes us to be watchful and alert, which is great when we are awake, but not so much when we are sleeping.

If you have too much noradrenaline in your system, you will feel more stressed and anxious, as well as find yourself completely unable to sleep. It can affect your ability to function, but listening to music is able to help – even if it’s just for 45 minutes before you fall asleep.

It can lead to much better sleep quality, improved mood, and even improved concentration. Once you are able to fall into a regular sleep pattern with the help of your music, you may even start to benefit from deeper sleep – leaving you very well rested.

 

Part 4

How Music Can Help the Elderly

While the elderly can, and often do, suffer from all of the mental illnesses we have mentioned above (and more), there are also some that tend to affect older people far more frequently. It is in this section that we take a look at each of them and the ways in which music can help to alleviate symptoms and boost their mood.

Alzheimer’s 

Alzheimer’s is actually a form of dementia, and it can cause cognitive difficulties, like memory loss, perception, and learning. Additionally, it can cause severe mood swings and sudden bouts of anger, and even violence. It’s a difficult and progressive disease, but there have been some promising results from music therapy.

The way in which music therapy works is by creating a relaxing environment in which those who suffer from Alzheimer’s can create music together or sing songs that resonate in a positive manner with each of them. This can alleviate feelings of stress, anxiety, and social isolation because they are in a group and interacting with each other.

On a related note, there has also been a lot of research into sound waves and how they might be able to pause Alzheimer’s symptoms. It is an interesting branch when it comes to finding a cure for the condition, and it does involve a form of music therapy – although it is one that is less diverse and interactive.

Dementia 

This is caused by changes in the brain, usually as a result of disease or trauma, and they can happen very quickly or over a long period of time – it’s down to the individual. It is a cognitive disease, which means it affects things like decision making, judgement, memory, verbal communication, special awareness, and general thought and reasoning.

However, music therapy has had a massively positive impact on dementia sufferers. It is an interactive and engaging activity that helps them to express thoughts and feelings, as well as connect with others around them, so they don’t feel as isolated anymore. 

On top of all the social benefits, it can also boost physical activity as the music often results in participants getting up and dancing. This enhances mood, leaving you feeling way better than you did on arrival.

Loneliness 

We’ve mentioned the concept of music therapy alleviating feelings of loneliness and isolation a few times, but it is good to have all the key information in one place. Music therapy is a way for everyone to get together in one place, share ideas, and collaborate in order to create new music together. 

It is both a social exercise and one that increases mood, as well as alleviates anxiety, stress, and depression. It’s a helpful and beneficial practice overall – both for the elderly and younger generations.

 

Part 5

How Music Can Help Children

Even kids can benefit from music and music therapy, and you may be surprised to discover just how much it can benefit them. In this section, we look at some common conditions, as well as the effect music has on children before they are even born – giving you better insight into how your child might be able to take advantage of it.

Autism

Just as in adults, autism is a spectrum, and as such music therapy can have a different effect on each of the people who take part in it. While music therapy works excellently across the spectrum, some of the best and most exciting results are in those who are non-verbal, meaning that they cannot speak, or have a very limited ability to do so.

Studies have shown that those who are non-verbal have been able to use music therapy as a way to interact and express emotions that they otherwise would not be able to because they do not have the words. Even very basic instruments, like cymbals, are a great way for them to express themselves. 

It allows them to socialise and discover a new language, and brain scans show that the area where language is stored looks the same in those communicating with music, as it does those with words. Regardless of where a child is on the spectrum, music therapy can help them to achieve the following:

  • The ability to listen better 
  • Spontaneous play 
  • The desire to communicate and engage with others 
  • The ability to build better relationships 
  • The ability to express themselves 
  • Language development through songs 
  • Learning to share and take turns 
  • Boost the imagination and creativity 
  • Strengthen muscles and coordination 

The reason for all of these good things is that music therapy creates a relaxed and enjoyable environment where they are stimulated and engaged, and all of this combined creates positive results for them as they grow and learn.

ADHD

It can be hard having ADHD because you are so full of energy and unable to focus on one thing for more than a few minutes. Your mind is moving at a million miles an hour, and it is hard to get it to stop. Music therapy, however, can help with a few of the symptoms quite effectively.

You see, music consists of rhythm, and rhythm is a form of structure, and this appeals to the ADHD mind because all it wants is structure and organisation. It has a clear beginning, middle, and end, so everything is anticipated, and in the long run, it can help a child with ADHD learn planning and organisation so that they can lead a more structured life.

ADHD brains have a pretty low dopamine level, and this is the neurotransmitter that is responsible for motivation, attention, and working memory. Music activates both sides of the brain, which means everything is engaged, and the activated brain muscles are able to become stronger – boosting things like motivation and the ability to focus.

Music therapy also gives kids a chance to get up and dance, allowing themselves to move freely and burn some of that pent-up energy. It also doubles up as a form of expression, as dance is a very emotive activity, allowing them to engage with others and tell them how they are feelingthrough the combination of music and dance.

It is a fun experience for those with ADHD, but also a social one. It can be hard to know how to act appropriately, especially for children, and music encourages socialisation through song and playing instruments. They learn how to work together when creating song lyrics, as well as a musical number that they can perform in the group.

Infant Development 

This is an interesting area, and studies have shown that playing music while a foetus is growing and developing in the womb will make them more responsive to it after birth. This means that some babies may find that music relaxes and soothes them when they become distressed, helping them to sleep and stay a little quieter. 

Preterm babies that are exposed to music tend to have increased feeding rates, reduced days to discharge, increased weight gain, and a better tolerance of stimulation. After therapy, they may even have reduced heart rates and deeper sleep.

 

Part 6

Best Music for Mental Health

We all have songs that help us get through the most difficult times. Personally, I really enjoy listening to sounds of the ocean when I am really struggling, or Zen music. However, I know others that like to listen to heavy metal in order to start feeling alright again. There’s no wrong answer for which music to listen to in order to help your mental health, but I do have a few good suggestions you might want to try.

Anxiety and Social Anxiety

Interestingly, there is an actual song that was developed for relieving anxiety, and it can reduce the feelings and symptoms by up to 65% - which is pretty remarkable. Created by Marconi Union in collaboration with sound therapists, the song Weightless consists of a series of carefully arranged harmonies, rhythms and bass lines that are there to slow your heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and the stress hormone cortisol.

Generally speaking, slower music like the songs sung by Adele and even some Coldplay singles are ideal for reliving those tight and tense feelings of anxiety – but you should have Marconi Union at the top of your list. You can also try these Binaural Beats on YouTube; you might find them to be quite relaxing.

Depression 

The most important thing you can do when you are feeling depressed is resist the sad music on your phone or in your CD collection. Listening to sad music does more harm than good, and can actually lower your mood and leave you feeling worse than before. Instead, you need upbeat and uplifting songs on your playlist to really help you fight the battle and win against your depression.

Artists like Pharrell Williams, who creates music that is catchy and focuses on positive emotions are the best ones to listen to when you are trying to relieve your depression. Walk On by U2 and Keep Your Head Up by Andy Grammar are just another two songs that can really help to boost your mood and assist you with getting through difficult times. My personal favourite? Don’t Stop by Fleetwood Mac.

Stress

Much like with anxiety, if you want to reduce stress (and therefore the hormone cortisol that creates it), you are going to want to listen to music with a soft and gentle rhythm. It will lower your blood pressure, relieve tension, and help you to feel a little less worried about the road ahead. It’s a great coping strategy, and a healthy one.

The album In My Time by Yanni has no vocals. Instead, it is a beautiful combination of piano and orchestra – creating a soothing and relaxing atmosphere that you can melt into. More than that, each track on the album has uplifting undertones to boost your mood. Maroon 5 is an excellent band to look at for stress relief, and the album Songs by Jane is filled with mellow and upbeat songs to brighten your day and calm the soul.

PTSD

Studies have shown that the best music for PTSD contains low pitches, have a steady beat, and is slow. In addition to this, it can be very beneficial to use binaural beats and isochronic tones, each of which triggers a chemical reaction in the brain to help calm the mind and relieve feelings of terror and anxiety.

This particular YouTube soundtrack has been created specifically for PTSD, and it contains carefully embedded binaural beats that can help with sleep and feelings of calm. It also lasts for an hour, so you can spend time meditating and really focussing on the music. There are quite a few binaural tracks out there that you can look at, but the one we have suggested is certainly in the top five.

OCD

As the music helps you to focus on the song as opposed to obsessive and intrusive thoughts, it is important to consider your song choice carefully. Honestly, there is not a specific type of music that can help, although some sufferers feel that binaural beats can be quite refreshing.

As long as the song help you to focus on other things, you are good to go. Some of the top suggestions from OCD sufferers have been Heavy by Linkin Park and this classical music selection that is said to be able to free you from your OCD symptoms for a time.

ADHD

The ADHD mind can become distracted easily and lose focus, and so music with lyrics can actually assist with that interruption and cause a new focus for the mind. As a result, many ADHD sufferers have found that listening to classical music, or music with no lyrics in general, can help to keep the mind focused on the task at hand, as well as giving the part of the brain that interrupts you something to focus on.

Bach, Mozart, and Handel are just some of the artists that can create a peaceful background while you try to work, keeping your mind on what you are doing in the present moment. There is also a company called Focus at Will, and this creates soundtracks to suit the type of thinker you are, but also has one dedicated to those with ADHD – adults and kids alike. You might want to try it out.

Autism

Due to the fact that autism is such a vast spectrum, the type of music that helps varies from person to person, and where they are on it. Plus, there are times where music can make things worse – such as if it is put on when a person is suffering from a sensory overload. However, there are some ideas for what might help you out, and the songs here are recommended by those that suffer from autism.

The key thing here is that all of the music is soft and mellow, which has a calming effect and will reduce feelings of anxiety and tension. Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles is a popular choice, as is I Will Wait by Mumford and Sons. Similarly, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata can help massively due to its calm melody and lack of lyrics.

Insomnia 

When you can’t sleep and spend ages looking up at the ceiling, the last thing you need to listen to is music that has a fast pace and beat. This is because it will boost the amount of noradrenaline that your body is producing, keeping you awake and watchful all through the night. Instead, for 45 minutes before you go to sleep, why not take our music advice? Harmat’s insomnia study in 2008 proved its effectiveness after all.

The songs here are ones that other insomnia sufferers recommend because of their calming melodies. Midnight by Coldplay is a prime example, and the first one you should add to your sleep playlist. Weightless by Marconi Union (a song we talk about more in the anxiety section) is also an excellent choice. Try adding On Melancholy Hill by Gorillaz, as well as Nude by Radiohead.

 

Part 7

How to Start Music Therapy 

There are two ways in which you can start music therapy. The first is by getting a referral from your doctor – either for you or your child – and they will send you to a specific centre. Often, this is funded by the NHS. In the USA, there may be some charities that fund music therapy if you cannot afford it. In both the UK and USA, you may be expected to pay for some courses, depending on your age and circumstances.

You can also go directly to music therapy centres yourself and contact them for self-referral to one of their courses. We have gathered some of the top centres in the UK and USA for you to take a look at, so you can see what they offer and the conditions that they are able to help with.

UK Music Therapy Centres:

Nordoff Robbins: Located across the UK
British Association for Music Therapy: Located across the UK
Richmond Music Trust: Located in Twickenham and Teddington
Belltree Music Therapy Centre: Located in Brighton
The Owl Centre: Located across the South of England

USA Music Therapy Centres:

Music Therapy Centre: Located in California
Centre for Music Therapy: Located in Texas

To Conclude

Hopefully, this has helped you to understand what music therapy is, how it works, and the ways in which it might be able to benefit you, or a loved one, who is suffering from a mental illness. There are so many conditions that have yet to be properly explored with music therapy, and we hope that they are added to the list soon so that even more people can experience the incredible benefits.

Generally speaking, soft and steady rhythms seem to be the best choice for most conditions, and it has an amazing way of reducing our stress levels, relieving tension, and generally boosting our mood. Music is a wonderful tool that we do no use enough, and hopefully, this will start getting you interested in seeing if music therapy is something that can work for you.

What did you think of our guide to music and the effect it has on mental health? Did you find the points we made valid and interesting, or were there areas that you think could have been further explored? We love hearing from you, so leave a message in the comments below.

References and Resources List

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/December-2016/The-Impact-of-Music-Therapy-on-Mental-Health
https://romanmusictherapy.com/ocd-treatment-with-music/
https://www.bamt.org/music-therapy/what-is-music-therapy/mental-health-care.html
https://www.bamt.org/music-therapy/what-is-music-therapy/autistic-spectrum-conditions.html
https://www.bamt.org/music-therapy/what-is-music-therapy/autistic-spectrum-conditions/autism-case-study.html
https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/arts-therapies/music-therapy/#.W1jGvtJKhPY
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5618810/
https://www.nhs.uk/news/mental-health/music-therapy-helps-treat-depression/
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S217358081730072X
https://www.dementiauk.org/music-therapy/
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jan/18/dementia-study-calls-for-more-funding-of-music-therapy-reduce-symptoms
https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/natural-standard/201306/music-therapy-health-and-wellness
http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/self-injury
https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide.shtml
https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/
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https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics
https://www.inc.com/melanie-curtin/neuroscience-says-listening-to-this-one-song-reduces-anxiety-by-up-to-65-percent.html
https://theconversation.com/sad-music-and-depression-does-it-help-66123
https://brainwavepowermusic.com/home/blog/using-music-to-treat-posttraumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd
https://themighty.com/2018/05/heavy-linkin-park-ocd-mental-illness/
https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-distracted-couple/201601/music-your-adhd-ears
https://www.quora.com/How-can-music-help-people-with-OCD
https://www.additudemag.com/music-for-adhd-focus/?tos=accepted
https://www.focusatwill.com/
https://www.nme.com/blogs/nme-blogs/songs-to-help-you-sleep-insomnia-2142494
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18426457
http://www.healthcommunities.com/depression/music-therapy-depression-treatment_jhmwp.shtml
https://www.additudemag.com/music-therapy-for-adhd-how-rhythm-builds-focus/
http://www.specialneeds.com/activities/adhd/music-therapy-children-adhd
http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/sound-waves-could-help-treat-alzheimers/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5744879/
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0197455615000064
https://universityhealthnews.com/daily/depression/what-is-music-therapy-find-natural-anxiety-relief-fight-depression-reduce-blood-pressure-and-more-with-this-alternative-approach/

3 Factors in Covering the Costs of Terminal Cancer

By Scott Sanders, cancerwell.org

It’s hard to be there as a loved one reaches the end of their life, but it’s much harder when that end comes with a painful cancer diagnosis. Cancer doesn’t discriminate — old, young, man, woman— cancer impacts nearly 40 percent of people in the United States.

A terminal cancer diagnosisis one of the hardest things to hear. While cancer in and of itself is scary, terminal — an illness that can’t be cured and will ultimately lead to death — will take a lot of time to process and accept. There is no “right” way to respond to this kind of diagnosis. Some people continue to seek a cure, while others begin arranging their affairs. Either way, there are a lot of factors to consider and steps to take — and the cost of care is one of the most stressful to deal with. This guide hopes to help ease that burden by offering some important suggestions on how to prepare and predict the costs associated with a terminal cancer diagnosis.

Physical Health

Even with a terminal diagnosis, there are still some treatments many people diagnosed with terminal cancer still need or want. These treatments can help you stay comfortable in your final months or years through palliative care, which eases aches and pains. Some life-extending treatmentscan give you more quality time with your loved ones. You can even choose to help science make advances toward a cure by participating in clinical trials.

Fortunately, Humana Medicare Advantage plans offer supplemental coverage for people with terminal cancer, from radiation to medications to dental work needed because of cancer treatment. This benefit allows you to focus on what’s important during end-of-life care, which is essential in maintaining comfortand independence during this difficult time.

Mental Health

 A terminal diagnosis can weigh heavily on the heart and mind. It’s not uncommon for people with terminal cancer to develop depression or anxiety — two conditions that can have a negative effect on your remaining time. Many people feel anxious about money, making sure family is cared for after they leave, and getting their affairs in order in time. Others develop depression and deep despair when confronted with their mortality. They focus on regrets and what-ifs instead of making the most of the time they have left.

It’s natural to feel a surge of grief when your doctor gives a terminal diagnosis. However, when that initial sorrow doesn’t subside or gets worse, it’s time to talk to a mental health professional. There’s no reason not to — 42 percent of people in the United States have participated in behavioral health counseling at least once in their lives. A therapist or counselor can give you some amazing tips and techniques for positive coping.

Final Arrangements

It’s never an easy conversation to have, and under the shadow of a terminal diagnosis, it may be even harder. However, talking about your final arrangements with friends and family ahead of time can ease the burden on yourself and your loved ones. You’ll have a stronger peace of mind knowing that you’ll be remembered and celebrated in a way you want. Your family will have less decisions to guess because they’ll know your wishes and preferences. 

Talk to a funeral home and get information about burial versus cremation, prices on caskets, and the difference between a visitation and a funeral. Talk to loved ones about music, readings, flowers, and people you want at a celebration of your life. You can even pre-pay for your final arrangements to make the process even more stress-free for your family.

Getting a terminal diagnosis can be extremely distressing, but after the emotional shockwaves slow down, just remember to be kind and compassionate to yourself. Whether you have years, months, or weeks left, just focus on enjoying the things in life you love the most.

For additional information, contact: info@cancerwell.org

Does dim light make us dumber?

February 5, 2018

Science Daily/Michigan State University

Spending too much time in dimly lit rooms and offices may actually change the brain's structure and hurt one's ability to remember and learn, indicates groundbreaking research by neuroscientists.

 

The researchers studied the brains of Nile grass rats (which, like humans, are diurnal and sleep at night) after exposing them to dim and bright light for four weeks. The rodents exposed to dim light lost about 30 percent of capacity in the hippocampus, a critical brain region for learning and memory, and performed poorly on a spatial task they had trained on previously.

 

The rats exposed to bright light, on the other hand, showed significant improvement on the spatial task. Further, when the rodents that had been exposed to dim light were then exposed to bright light for four weeks (after a month-long break), their brain capacity -- and performance on the task -- recovered fully.

 

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is the first to show that changes in environmental light, in a range normally experienced by humans, leads to structural changes in the brain. Americans, on average, spend about 90 percent of their time indoors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

 

"When we exposed the rats to dim light, mimicking the cloudy days of Midwestern winters or typical indoor lighting, the animals showed impairments in spatial learning," said Antonio "Tony" Nunez, psychology professor and co-investigator on the study. "This is similar to when people can't find their way back to their cars in a busy parking lot after spending a few hours in a shopping mall or movie theater."

 

Nunez collaborated with Lily Yan, associate professor of psychology and principal investigator on the project, and Joel Soler, a doctoral graduate student in psychology. Soler is also lead author of a paper on the findings published in the journal Hippocampus.

 

Soler said sustained exposure to dim light led to significant reductions in a substance called brain derived neurotrophic factor -- a peptide that helps maintain healthy connections and neurons in the hippocampus -- and in dendritic spines, or the connections that allow neurons to "talk" to one another.

 

"Since there are fewer connections being made, this results in diminished learning and memory performance that is dependent upon the hippocampus," Soler said. "In other words, dim lights are producing dimwits."

 

Interestingly, light does not directly affect the hippocampus, meaning it acts first other sites within the brain after passing through the eyes. Yan said the research team is investigating one potential site in the rodents' brains -- a group of neurons in the hypothalamus that produce a peptide called orexin that's known to influence a variety of brain functions. One of their major research questions: If orexin is given to the rats that are exposed to dim light, will their brains recover without being re-exposed to bright light?

 

The project could have implications for the elderly and people with glaucoma, retinal degeneration or cognitive impairments.

 

"For people with eye disease who don't receive much light, can we directly manipulate this group of neurons in the brain, bypassing the eye, and provide them with the same benefits of bright light exposure?" Yan said. "Another possibility is improving the cognitive function in the aging population and those with neurological disorders. Can we help them recover from the impairment or prevent further decline?"

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180205134251.htm

Why being left-handed matters for mental health treatment

June 18, 2018

Science Daily/Cornell University

Treatment for the most common mental health problems could be ineffective or even detrimental to about 50 percent of the population, according to a radical new model of emotion in the brain.

 

Since the 1970s, hundreds of studies have suggested that each hemisphere of the brain is home to a specific type of emotion. Emotions linked to approaching and engaging with the world -- like happiness, pride and anger -- lives in the left side of the brain, while emotions associated with avoidance -- like disgust and fear -- are housed in the right.

 

But those studies were done almost exclusively on right-handed people. That simple fact has given us a skewed understanding of how emotion works in the brain, according to Daniel Casasanto, associate professor of human development and psychology at Cornell University.

 

That longstanding model is, in fact, reversed in left-handed people, whose emotions like alertness and determination are housed in the right side of their brains, Casasanto suggests in a new study. Even more radical: The location of a person's neural systems for emotion depends on whether they are left-handed, right-handed or somewhere in between, the research shows.

 

The study, "Approach motivation in human cerebral cortex," is published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

 

According to the new theory, called the "sword and shield hypothesis," the way we perform actions with our hands determines how emotions are organized in our brains. Sword fighters of old would wield their swords in their dominant hand to attack the enemy -- an approach action -- and raise their shields with their non-dominant hand to fend off attack -- an avoidance action. Consistent with these action habits, results show that approach emotions depend on the hemisphere of the brain that controls the dominant "sword" hand, and avoidance emotions on the hemisphere that controls the non-dominant "shield" hand.

 

The work has implications for a current treatment for recalcitrant anxiety and depression called neural therapy. Similar to the technique used in the study and approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it involves a mild electrical stimulation or a magnetic stimulation to the left side of the brain, to encourage approach-related emotions.

 

But Casasanto's work suggests the treatment could be damaging for left-handed patients. Stimulation on the left would decrease life-affirming approach emotions. "If you give left-handers the standard treatment, you're probably going to make them worse," Casasanto said.

 

"And because many people are neither strongly right- nor left-handed, the stimulation won't make any difference for them, because their approach emotions are distributed across both hemispheres," he said.

 

"This suggests strong righties should get the normal treatment, but they make up only 50 percent of the population. Strong lefties should get the opposite treatment, and people in the middle shouldn't get the treatment at all."

 

However, Casasanto cautions that this research studied only healthy participants and more work is needed to extend these findings to a clinical setting.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180618222617.htm

 

How a moderate dose of alcohol protects the heart

June 18, 2018

Science Daily/Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo

Results suggest the effect is associated with activation of the enzyme ALDH2, which helps rid the organism of an aldehyde which is a toxic byproduct of alcohol digestion as much as it is a byproduct of heart cells submitted to stress.

 

A study conducted at the University of São Paulo's Biomedical Science Institute (ICB-USP) in Brazil suggests that this cardioprotective mechanism may be associated with activation of ALDH2 (aldehyde dehydrogenase-2), a mitochondrial enzyme that helps rid the organism of both the toxic byproducts of alcohol digestion and a type of reactive molecule produced in heart cells when they suffer major damage, such as that caused by a heart attack.

 

"Our data suggest moderate exposure to ethanol causes minor stress in heart cells but not enough to kill them. Intracellular signaling is reorganized as a result, and heart cells eventually create a biochemical memory to protect against stress, also known as preconditioning. When the cells are submitted to a higher level of stress, they know how to deal with it," said Julio Cesar Batista Ferreira, a professor in ICB-USP's Anatomy Department and principal investigator for the research project, which was supported by the São Paulo Research Foundation -- FAPESP.

 

The Brazilian researchers are working in partnership with scientists at Stanford University in the United States. Recent results obtained during Cintia Bagne Ueta's postdoctoral research have been published in Cardiovascular Research.

 

To study the cardioprotective effects of alcohol at the cellular level, the researchers simulated a condition similar to myocardial infarction in mouse hearts kept alive in an artificial system. In this ex vivo model, the heart continues to beat outside the body for several hours while being perfused with an oxygenated and nutrient-enriched solution.

 

The scientists then simulated a clinical condition known as ischemia-reperfusion injury by interrupting the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the heart for 30 minutes. When the flow was restarted, the heart began beating again slowly, and after an hour, the researchers assessed the damage. In this model, approximately 50% of cardiac cells die on average unless there is some type of intervention.

 

"Lack of oxygen used to be considered the main cause of damage, but research has shown that during ischemia, the cells change their metabolism and enter a sort of dormant state. When the artery is unblocked [reperfusion], the tissue is flooded with nutrients and oxygen, and cell metabolism collapses," Ferreira explains.

 

In response to stress, cardiac cells produce large amounts of 4-HNE (4-hydroxy-2-nonenal), a reactive aldehyde that is toxic in excess and destroys essential cellular structures.

 

The mitochondrial enzyme ALDH2 normally rids the organism of accumulated aldehydes -- both 4-HNE in stressed cardiac cells and the acetaldehyde resulting from ethanol breakdown in the liver after a bout of drinking.

 

In previous research, however, Ferreira's group in partnership with colleagues at Stanford led by Daria Mochly-Rosen showed that ALDH2 activity during the process of ischemia and reperfusion was significantly reduced. These findings were published in Science Translational Medicine and Circulation Journal.

 

"The amount of 4-HNE becomes so large inside the cardiac cells that it ends up attacking the enzyme ALDH2, which should be metabolizing it," Ferreira said.

 

"In our new study, we observed that ALDH2 activity in the heart exposed to ethanol before ischemia-reperfusion injury remained equal to that seen in a healthy heart. We believe the stress caused by a moderate dose of ethanol leaves a memory and that the cell learns to keep ALDH2 more active," added the coordinator of the FAPESP-funded research.

 

Five groups

 

Mice were divided into five groups to explore the mechanisms underlying the observed cardioprotective effect. The hearts in the control group suffered no damage and received no treatment or intervention. The hearts in the second group were submitted to ischemia and reperfusion, losing approximately 50% of their cells as a result.

 

In the third group, before inducing the ischemic injury, the researchers exposed the hearts extracted from male mice to ethanol for ten minutes, at a dose equivalent to two cans of beer or two glasses of wine for an average man. The dose was adjusted according to each animal's mass.

 

"We endeavored to follow the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO), which is up to one dose per day [18 grams of alcohol] for women and up to two doses per day for men. In the case of mice, it was around 50 millimolar," Ferreira explained.

 

The hearts were washed for ten minutes to remove surplus alcohol, and the flow of oxygen and nutrients was then interrupted, as for group two. An analysis performed approximately one hour after reperfusion showed that only 30% of the cells had died. In other words, the damage was reduced by almost 60% in comparison with group two. Also, the FAPESP-supported study found that ALDH2 activity was twice as high as in the untreated group and equivalent to the level measured in the control group, which was not submitted to the insult.

 

In the fourth group, the hearts were treated with ethanol and exposed to a drug that inhibits ALDH2 activity. In this case, the rate of cell death rose from 50% to 80%, confirming that the protection provided by ethanol does indeed depend on the action of this enzyme.

 

The fifth and last group consisted of hearts from mice with a mutation in the gene encoding ALDH2 that reduced the enzyme's activity by almost 80%. As Ferreira explained, the mice were genetically modified to simulate this mutation, which is very common among humans of East Asian descent and affects over 500 million people worldwide.

 

"In this group, when we exposed the hearts to ethanol, the damage caused by ischemia and reperfusion was greater," he said. "The rate of cell death rose from 50% to 70%. However, when we treated this group's hearts with Alda-1, an experimental drug that activates ALDH2, it fell to 35%."

 

Treatment with Alda-1 was not found to benefit the hearts of mice without the ALDH2 gene mutation when exposed to ethanol. "This suggests that both the experimental drug and alcohol act on the same molecular mechanism to activate ALDH2," he added.

 

Alda-1 has completed Phase I clinical trials in the US and is classified as safe for use in healthy humans. In a new phase of trials due to begin soon, it will be administered to patients with heart disease.

 

Role of DNA

 

Ferreira drew a parallel between regular consumption of small amounts of alcohol by humans and the results observed in the hearts of mice treated with ethanol in the laboratory.

 

"However, it all depends on people's DNA," he stressed. "The acetaldehyde that results from digesting ethanol may protect most people if a small amount is produced, but it can also maximize the damage done by a heart attack in an individual with the ALDH2 gene mutation. It's easy to identify these people. After one glass of beer, they get flushed and complain of a headache. Their resistance to alcohol doesn't improve over time."

 

Heart damage may also be exacerbated if a large amount of alcohol is consumed, Ferreira warned, as this results in excessive production of acetaldehyde and makes the cleansing normally performed by ALDH2 much harder.

 

"The group treated with the ALDH2-inhibiting drug [in which the rate of cell death reached 80%] mimicked what happens when a person drinks too heavily. The hard part is establishing the safe dose for each individual. There are many variables that affect alcohol digestion," Ferreira said.

 

The researchers at ICB-USP are now trying to understand how the presence of acetaldehyde resulting from the metabolizing of alcohol in heart cells creates the memory that keeps ALDH2 more active. The idea is to develop a drug that mimics the beneficial effect of ethanol without exposing the individual to risks such as chemical dependency.

 

"Alda-1 is a possible candidate, but more trials to guarantee its safety and effectiveness in humans are needed," Ferreira said.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180618141849.htm

 

Gut microbes may contribute to depression and anxiety in obesity

Study in mice links gut microbes with signs of negative feelings and brain chemistry

June 17, 2018

Science Daily/Joslin Diabetes Center

Like everyone, people with type 2 diabetes and obesity suffer from depression and anxiety, but even more so. Researchers now have demonstrated a surprising potential contributor to these negative feelings -- and that is the bacteria in the gut or gut microbiome, as it is known.

 

Studying mice that become obese when put on a high-fat diet, the Joslin scientists found that mice on a high-fat diet showed significantly more signs of anxiety, depression and obsessive behavior than animals on standard diets. "But all of these behaviors are reversed or improved when antibiotics that will change the gut microbiome were given with the high fat diet," says C. Ronald Kahn, M.D., co-Head of the Section on Integrative Physiology and Metabolism at Joslin and the Mary K. Iacocca Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School .

 

"As endocrinologists, we often hear people say that they feel differently when they've eaten different foods," notes Kahn, who is senior author on a paper in Molecular Psychiatry describing the research. "What this study says is that many things in your diet might affect the way your brain functions, but one of those things is the way diet changes the gut bacteria or microbes. Your diet isn't always necessarily just making your blood sugar higher or lower; it's also changing a lot of signals coming from gut microbes and these signals make it all the way to the brain."

 

His lab has long studied mice that are prone to developing obesity, diabetes and related metabolic diseases when given high-fat diets. Earlier this year, the team showed that at least part of this development is driven by changing bacteria in the gut microbiome. The condition was reversed in mice who were given antibiotics in their drinking water, which altered the microbiome.

 

In the most recent study, the Joslin scientists followed up by giving mice on a high-fat diet four classic lab animal behavioral tests, which are often employed in screening drugs for anxiety and depression. In each case, mice on high-fat diet showed higher signs of anxiety and depression than mice on a regular diet. However, when the mice were given antibiotics with the high fat diet, their behaviors returned to normal.

 

One of the ways the researchers showed this was an effect of the microbiome was by transferring gut bacteria from these experimental mice toto germ-free mice, who did not have any bacteria of their own. The animals who received bacteria from mice on a high-fat diet showed began to show increased levels of activity associated with anxiety and obsessive behavior. However, those who received microbes from mice on a high-fat diet plus antibiotics did not, even though they did not receive the antibiotics themselves. "This proves that these behaviors are driven to some significant extent by the gut microbiome," says Kahn.

 

But what exactly were the microbes doing? The Joslin looked for clues in two areas of the brain, the hypothalamus (which helps to control whole body metabolism) and the nucleus accumbens (which is important in mood and behavior).

 

"We demonstrated that, just like other tissues of the body, these areas of the brain become insulin resistant in mice on high-fat diets," Kahn says. "And this response to the high fat is partly, and in some cases almost completely, reversed by putting the animals by antibiotics. Again, the response is transferrable when you transfer the gut microbiome from mice on a high-fat diet to germ-free mice. So, the insulin resistance in the brain is mediated at least in part by factors coming from the microbiome."

 

The Joslin team went on to link the microbiome alterations to the production of certain neurotransmitters -- the chemicals that transfer signals across the brain.

 

Kahn and his colleagues are now working to identify specific populations of bacteria involved in these processes, and the molecules that the bacteria produce. The eventual goal is to find drugs or supplements that can help to achieve healthier metabolic profiles in the brain.

 

"Antibiotics are blunt tools that change many bacteria in very dramatic ways," Kahn says. "Going forward, we want to get a more sophisticated understanding about which bacteria contribute to insulin resistance in the brain and in other tissues. If we could modify those bacteria, either by putting in more beneficial bacteria or reducing the number of harmful bacteria, that might be a way to see improved behavior."

 

Overall, this study highlights how basic research that draws on expertise from multiple fields can lead in unexpected directions, Kahn emphasizes. "Understanding one area of biology, like diabetes and metabolism, can often give new and different perspectives in another field, like psychiatric and behavioral disorders," he says. "Even if that's not what you start out to do!"

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180617204413.htm

Brain changes linked to sleep need

June 14, 2018

Science Daily/UT Southwestern Medical Center

We've all experienced going to bed tired and waking up refreshed, yet how that happens at the molecular level remains a mystery. An international study sheds new light on the biochemistry of sleep need in the brain.

 

According to the American Sleep Association, 50 million to 70 million U.S. adults have a sleep disorder with almost 1 in 3 experiencing short-term insomnia and about 1 in 10 suffering from chronic insomnia. Sleep loss is known to compromise thinking and decision-making, which decreases work performance and productivity while increasing the risk of auto and industrial accidents. Understanding sleep regulators could benefit society by leading to the development of novel, more effective treatments for sleeplessness.

 

The new research reports the first whole-brain, quantitative study of a fundamental molecular process called phosphorylation in the context of sleep need. It features a clever comparison of two different groups of tired mice: sleep-deprived normal mice and Sleepy mutant mice, a variety with a genetic mutation that confers an unusually high sleep need despite increased sleep amount.

 

The Sleepy mouse was identified in a collaborative study between Dr. Masashi Yanagisawa and Dr. Joseph Takahashi initiated at UT Southwestern's Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute, where Dr. Takahashi is Chair of Neuroscience, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, and holder of the Loyd B. Sands Distinguished Chair in Neuroscience. Dr. Yanagisawa, Director of the University of Tsukuba's International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine (WPI-IIIS) in Japan, is a Professor of Molecular Genetics at UT Southwestern. Dr. Yanagisawa and Dr. Qinghua Liu, an Associate Professor in UTSW's Center for the Genetics of Host Defense and of Neuroscience, are two of the study's three corresponding authors. Dr. Liu also has joint appointments at the WPI-IIIS and at the National Institute of Biological Sciences (NIBS) in Beijing.

 

"Although sleep exists in all animals, why sleep is needed and how sleep is regulated remain a mystery. We set out to investigate the molecules that govern sleep need (or sleep pressure)," said Dr. Liu, a W.A. "Tex" Moncrief Jr. Scholar in Medical Research. Sleep need is the feeling of tiredness that builds up during waking hours, he said.

 

Dr. Joseph Takahashi describes the 2016 study from the Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute that identified the Sleepy mouse.

 

"Each animal exhibits a set point of total sleep time. In adult humans, that usually means about 8 out of 24 hours. Everyone has experienced staying up too late and feeling a need to 'make up for lost sleep.' Even simple jellyfish need to rest longer after being forced to remain awake," he said, adding that it has been hypothesized that a substance accumulates in the brain during waking and dissipates during sleep.

 

"A long-term goal in sleep research is to identify the actual molecular factor or factors involved in sleep need," he said. Currently, the majority of sleep medicines are mimics of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that simply shuts off the brain, and they induce nonnatural sleep with many side effects. It would be nice to understand the natural molecules better in order to design improved treatments for sleep problems, he added.

 

To study the molecules involved in sleep need, researchers devised a novel strategy of comparing phosphorylation in the brains of the sleep-deprived normal mice and Sleepy mutant mice. Phosphorylation is a reversible process that modifies the functions of proteins by adding a phosphate group. The novel strategy comparing the two mice -- one sleepy by circumstance, the other sleepy by nature -- made it possible to exclude variables such as stress that could affect sleepiness, the researchers explained.

 

Using immunochemical assays and mass spectrometry, the researchers identified 80 proteins that were hyperphosphorylated in the brains of sleep-deprived and Sleepy mice, meaning that the proteins accumulated more phosphate groups the longer the mice stayed awake. They named these proteins Sleep-Need-Index-Phosphoproteins (SNIPPs). They found that the phosphorylation of SNIPPs increased with sleep need and dissipated, or dephosphorylated, throughout the brain during sleep.

 

"Previous studies suggested a close link between sleep need and synaptic plasticity (the strengthening and weakening of synaptic connections between neurons that is linked to thinking and learning). Intriguingly, the majority of SNIPPs are synaptic proteins, including many regulators of synaptic plasticity," Dr. Liu said.

 

He added that a literature search found that mutations of multiple SNIPPs have been linked to changes in sleep need. "Thus, we propose that SNIPPs constitute the molecular link between synaptic plasticity and regulation of sleep need or, in lay terms, between thinking and sleepiness," he said.

 

"The purpose of phosphorylation appears to be to maximize the duration and quality of cognitive (thinking) functions of the brain. While prolonged wakefulness leads to cognitive impairment and sleepiness, sleep refreshes the brain through multiple restorative effects and optimizes cognitive functions for the next waking period," he said. Therefore, the phosphorylation/dephosphorylation cycle of SNIPPs may be an important way for the brain to reset itself every night, restoring both synaptic and sleep-wake balance to maximize clear thinking, he added.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180614212700.htm

Early birds less prone to depression

Largest study yet links chronotype to mental health

June 14, 2018

Science Daily/University of Colorado at Boulder

A study of 32,000 women found that those with an early chronotype, or sleep-wake preference, were significantly less likely to develop depression.

 

Middle-to-older aged women who are naturally early to bed and early to rise are significantly less likely to develop depression, according to a new study by researchers at University of Colorado Boulder and the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

 

The study of more than 32,000 female nurses, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, is the largest and most detailed observational study yet to explore the link between chronotype, or sleep-wake preference, and mood disorders.

 

It shows that even after accounting for environmental factors like light exposure and work schedules, chronotype -- which is in part determined by genetics -- appears to mildly influence depression risk.

 

"Our results show a modest link between chronotype and depression risk. This could be related to the overlap in genetic pathways associated with chronotype and mood," said lead author Céline Vetter, director of the Circadian and Sleep Epidemiology Laboratory (CASEL) at CU Boulder.

 

Previous studies have shown that night owls are as much as twice as likely to suffer from depression. But because those studies often used data at a single time-point and didn't account for many other factors that influence depression risk, it has been hard to determine whether depression leads people to stay up later or a late chronotype boosts risk of depression.

 

To shed light on the question, researchers used data from 32,470 female participants, average age 55, in the Nurses' Health Study, which asks nurses to fill out health questionnaires biennially.

 

In 2009, all the participants included in the study were free of depression. When asked about their sleep patterns, 37 percent described themselves as early types, 53 percent described themselves as intermediate types, and 10 percent described themselves as evening types.

 

The women were followed for four years to see who developed depression.

 

Depression risk factors like body weight, physical activity, chronic disease, sleep duration, or night shift work were also assessed.

 

The researchers found that late chronotypes, or night owls, are less likely to be married, more likely to live alone and be smokers, and more likely to have erratic sleep patterns.

 

After accounting for these factors, they found that early risers still had a 12 -- 27 percent lower risk of being depressed than intermediate types. Late types had a 6 percent higher risk than intermediate types ( this modest increase was not statistically significant.)

 

"This tells us that there might be an effect of chronotype on depression risk that is not driven by environmental and lifestyle factors," said Vetter.

 

Genetics play a role in determining whether you are an early bird, intermediate type, or night owl, with research showing 12-42 percent heritability. And some studies have already shown that certain genes (including PER2 and RORA), which influence when we prefer to rise and sleep, also influence depression risk.

 

"Alternatively, when and how much light you get also influences chronotype, and light exposure also influences depression risk. Disentangling the contribution of light patterns and genetics on the link between chronotype and depression risk is an important next step" Vetter said.

 

Vetter stresses that while the study does suggest that chronotype is an independent risk factor for depression, it does not mean night owls are doomed to be depressed.

 

"Yes, chronotype is relevant when it comes to depression but it is a small effect," she says, noting that her study found a more modest effect than previous ones have.

 

Her advice to night owls who want to lower their risk?

 

"Being an early type seems to beneficial, and you can influence how early you are" she said. Try to get enough sleep, exercise, spend time outdoors, dim the lights at night, and try to get as much light by day as possible.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180614212658.htm

 

Sleeping too much or not enough may have bad effects on health

June 12, 2018

Science Daily/BioMed Central

Fewer than six and more than ten hours of sleep per day are associated with metabolic syndrome and its individual components, according to a new study.

 

Researchers at Seoul National University College of Medicine found that compared to individuals who slept six to seven hours per day, men who slept fewer than six hours were more likely to have metabolic syndrome and higher waist circumference. Women who slept fewer than six hours were more likely to have higher waist circumference. Sleeping more than ten hours per day was associated with metabolic syndrome and increased levels of triglycerides in men, and with metabolic syndrome, higher waist circumference, higher levels of triglycerides and blood sugar, as well as low levels of 'good' cholesterol (HDL-C) in women. The authors found that nearly 11% of men and 13% of women slept less than six hours, while 1.5% of men and 1.7% of women slept more than ten hours.

 

Claire E. Kim, lead author of the study said: "This is the largest study examining a dose-response association between sleep duration and metabolic syndrome and its components separately for men and women. Because we were able to expand the sample of our previous study, we were able to detect associations between sleep and metabolic syndrome that were unnoticed before. We observed a potential gender difference between sleep duration and metabolic syndrome, with an association between metabolic syndrome and long sleep in women and metabolic syndrome and short sleep in men."

 

Based on common definitions, participants were considered to have metabolic syndrome if they showed at least three of the following: elevated waist circumference, high triglyceride levels, low levels of 'good' cholesterol, hypertension, and high fasting blood sugar. The prevalence of metabolic syndrome was just over 29% in men and 24.5% in women. The authors suggest that as the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in Korea is high, it is critical to identify modifiable risk factors such as sleep duration.

 

The authors used data from the HEXA study, a large-scale community-based study conducted in Korea during the years 2004-2013, which included information on socio-demographic characteristics, medical history, medication use, family history, lifestyle factors, diet, physical activity, and reproductive factors for women. As part of the HEXA study, samples of plasma, serum, buffy coat, blood cells, genomic DNA, and urine were collected, and participants underwent physical examinations by medical professionals. Sleep duration was assessed by asking the question: "In the past year, on average, how many hours/minutes of sleep (including daytime naps) did you take per day?"

 

Although the biological mechanisms that underlie the association between sleep duration and metabolic syndrome remain unclear, several potential processes have been reported. These include elevated levels of hormones which increase appetite and caloric intake or reduce energy expenditure in people who sleep less than seven hours per day, which may lead to increased waist circumference and development of obesity.

 

The authors caution that the cross-sectional, observational nature of this study does not allow for conclusions about cause and effect. Estimates of sleep duration were based on self-report data rather than objective measures and may reflect 'time in bed', actual time spent asleep or time people believed they slept. Also, as the study did not distinguish between daytime naps and nighttime sleep, their impact on health could not be assessed separately.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180612201800.htm

People who deeply grasp pain or happiness of others, process music differently in brain

Higher empathy people appear to process music like a pleasurable proxy for a human encounter -- in the brain regions for reward, social awareness and regulation of social emotions

June 12, 2018

Science Daily/Southern Methodist University

People who deeply grasp the pain or happiness of others also process music differently, say researchers. The study in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience compared MRI scans of low- and high-empathy people. Higher empathy people process music like a pleasurable proxy for a human encounter -- in brain regions for reward and social awareness. The findings may have implications for the function of music now and in our evolutionary past.

 

The researchers found that compared to low empathy people, those with higher empathy process familiar music with greater involvement of the reward system of the brain, as well as in areas responsible for processing social information.

 

"High-empathy and low-empathy people share a lot in common when listening to music, including roughly equivalent involvement in the regions of the brain related to auditory, emotion, and sensory-motor processing," said lead author Zachary Wallmark, an assistant professor in the SMU Meadows School of the Arts.

 

But there is at least one significant difference.

 

Highly empathic people process familiar music with greater involvement of the brain's social circuitry, such as the areas activated when feeling empathy for others. They also seem to experience a greater degree of pleasure in listening, as indicated by increased activation of the reward system.

 

"This may indicate that music is being perceived weakly as a kind of social entity, as an imagined or virtual human presence," Wallmark said.

 

Researchers in 2014 reported that about 20 percent of the population is highly empathic. These are people who are especially sensitive and respond strongly to social and emotional stimuli.

 

The SMU-UCLA study is the first to find evidence supporting a neural account of the music-empathy connection. Also, it is among the first to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to explore how empathy affects the way we perceive music.

 

The new study indicates that among higher-empathy people, at least, music is not solely a form of artistic expression.

 

"If music was not related to how we process the social world, then we likely would have seen no significant difference in the brain activation between high-empathy and low-empathy people," said Wallmark, who is director of the MuSci Lab at SMU, an interdisciplinary research collective that studies -- among other things -- how music affects the brain.

 

"This tells us that over and above appreciating music as high art, music is about humans interacting with other humans and trying to understand and communicate with each other," he said.

 

This may seem obvious.

 

"But in our culture we have a whole elaborate system of music education and music thinking that treats music as a sort of disembodied object of aesthetic contemplation," Wallmark said. "In contrast, the results of our study help explain how music connects us to others. This could have implications for how we understand the function of music in our world, and possibly in our evolutionary past."

 

The researchers reported their findings in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, in the article "Neurophysiological effects of trait empathy in music listening."

 

The co-authors are Choi Deblieck, with the University of Leuven, Belgium, and Marco Iacoboni, UCLA. The research was carried out at the Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center at UCLA.

 

"The study shows on one hand the power of empathy in modulating music perception, a phenomenon that reminds us of the original roots of the concept of empathy -- 'feeling into' a piece of art," said senior author Marco Iacoboni, a neuroscientist at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.

 

"On the other hand," Iacoboni said, "the study shows the power of music in triggering the same complex social processes at work in the brain that are at play during human social interactions."

 

Comparison of brain scans showed distinctive differences based on empathy

 

Participants were 20 UCLA undergraduate students. They were each scanned in an MRI machine while listening to excerpts of music that were either familiar or unfamiliar to them, and that they either liked or disliked. The familiar music was selected by participants prior to the scan.

 

Afterward each person completed a standard questionnaire to assess individual differences in empathy -- for example, frequently feeling sympathy for others in distress, or imagining oneself in another's shoes.

 

The researchers then did controlled comparisons to see which areas of the brain during music listening are correlated with empathy.

 

Analysis of the brain scans showed that high empathizers experienced more activity in the dorsal striatum, part of the brain's reward system, when listening to familiar music, whether they liked the music or not.

 

The reward system is related to pleasure and other positive emotions. Malfunction of the area can lead to addictive behaviors.

 

Empathic people process music with involvement of social cognitive circuitry

 

In addition, the brain scans of higher empathy people in the study also recorded greater activation in medial and lateral areas of the prefrontal cortex that are responsible for processing the social world, and in the temporoparietal junction, which is critical to analyzing and understanding others' behaviors and intentions.

 

Typically, those areas of the brain are activated when people are interacting with, or thinking about, other people. Observing their correlation with empathy during music listening might indicate that music to these listeners functions as a proxy for a human encounter.

 

Beyond analysis of the brain scans, the researchers also looked at purely behavioral data -- answers to a survey asking the listeners to rate the music afterward.

 

Those data also indicated that higher empathy people were more passionate in their musical likes and dislikes, such as showing a stronger preference for unfamiliar music.

 

Precise neurophysiological relationship between empathy and music is largely unexplored

 

A large body of research has focused on the cognitive neuroscience of empathy -- how we understand and experience the thoughts and emotions of other people. Studies point to a number of areas of the prefrontal, insular, and cingulate cortices as being relevant to what brain scientists refer to as social cognition.

 

Activation of the social circuitry in the brain varies from individual to individual. People with more empathic personalities show increased activity in those areas when performing socially relevant tasks, including watching a needle penetrating skin, listening to non-verbal vocal sounds, observing emotional facial expressions, or seeing a loved one in pain.

 

In the field of music psychology, a number of recent studies have suggested that empathy is related to intensity of emotional responses to music, listening style, and musical preferences -- for example, empathic people are more likely to enjoy sad music.

 

"This study contributes to a growing body of evidence," Wallmark said, "that music processing may piggyback upon cognitive mechanisms that originally evolved to facilitate social interaction."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180612185148.htm

One in four Americans develop insomnia each year: 75 percent of those with insomnia recover

June 5, 2018

Science Daily/University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

About 25 percent of Americans experience acute insomnia each year, but about 75 percent of these individuals recover without developing persistent poor sleep or chronic insomnia, according to a new study.

 

The new study offers the latest data on the prevalence of acute insomnia, which is characterized by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep for as little as three nights per week for at least two consecutive weeks up to three months. Insomnia becomes chronic when it occurs at least three nights a week for more than three months.

 

"Whether caused by stress, illness, medications, or other factors, poor sleep is very common," said senior author Michael Perlis, PhD, an associate professor of Psychiatry and director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine program. "These findings reveal new insights about the paths that acute insomnia takes and can inform interventions that target poor sleep and help people recover sustained sufficient sleep."

 

The findings, (#0359) will be presented at SLEEP 2018, the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC (APSS) in Baltimore.

 

Although some studies have offered the prevalence of insomnia symptoms in large populations, to date this is the first study to offer data on transitions of good sleepers (GS) -- defined as those needing fewer than 15 minutes to fall asleep and/or who spend fewer than 15 minutes awake during the night on five or more nights per week. The study specifically determines how GS transition to acute insomnia (AI), to persistent poor sleep (PPS) -- i.e., recurring bouts of AI without sustained recovery or turning to chronic insomnia (CI), to chronic insomnia, and how many of those affected by AI recover.

 

A total of 1,435 adults were recruited nationwide and tracked for one year during 2015-2017. They were verified as good sleepers over the first three months of the study and assessed on a daily, weekly and monthly basis for one full year. The subjects kept a daily sleep diary for the duration of the study, allowing for a uniquely detailed level of insight into how sleep varies from day to day. Also, regular assessments were made regarding participants' daytime function, stress and life events, and medical and mental health.

 

Among the 25 percent experiencing acute insomnia, about 75 percent of subjects recovered good sleep within 12 months, while 21 percent remained poor sleepers with recurring bouts of AI, and about 6 percent developed chronic insomnia. No significant differences were observed along racial, ethnic, or gender lines, or among people of varying incomes or BMI.

 

The new data provides researchers with how many people experience AI each year, as well as how those cases progress, laying the groundwork for additional research now underway to assess what factors predict recovery (resilience) and non-recovery (persistent poor sleep or the new onset of chronic insomnia).

 

The findings will be presented during the poster session on Tuesday, June 5, from 3:15-3:30 pm in room 337 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

 

Previous research from the Perlis team has shown that suicides are more likely to occur after midnight than during the daytime or evening and another study showing that more sleep reduces suicide risk in those with insomnia.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180605154114.htm

Inadequate sleep could cost countries billions

June 4, 2018

Science Daily/Oxford University Press USA

Inadequate sleep is a public health problem affecting more than one in three adults worldwide. A new study suggests that insufficient sleep could also have grave economic consequences.

 

Community sleep surveys suggest that inadequate sleep is substantial and increasing. Surveys performed several years ago demonstrated that complaints of inadequate sleep were common, with between 20 and 30 percent of respondents complaining of inadequate sleep on a regular basis across several Western nations. Recent surveys suggest this proportion is increasing; between 33 and 45 percent of Australian adults now have this complaint.

 

The growth of the problem over time is shared by other nations with similar demographics. Some 35 percent of U.S. adults are not getting the recommended 7 hours of sleep each night. About 30 percent of Canadians don't feel they're getting enough sleep. Some 37 percent of those in the UK, 28 percent of people in Singapore, and 26 percent of French people also report insufficient sleep.

 

Insufficient sleep is associated with lapses in attention and the inability to stay focused; reduced motivation; compromised problem solving; confusion, irritability and memory lapses; impaired communication; slowed or faulty information processing and judgment; diminished reaction times; and indifference and loss of empathy. Furthermore, short sleep increases the risk of heart attacks, stroke, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and depression.

 

Here researchers attempted to measure the economic consequences of limited sleep times -- defined as "difficulties with sleep initiation, maintenance or quality associated with the presence of impaired daytime alertness" at least several days a week -- in Australia. Researchers evaluated financial and non-financial cost data derived from national surveys and databases. Costs considered included: financial costs associated with health care, informal care provided outside the healthcare sector, productivity losses, non-medical work and vehicle accident costs, deadweight loss through inefficiencies relating to lost taxation revenue and welfare payments; and nonfinancial costs of a loss of well-being.

 

The financial cost component was $17.88 billion, comprised of: direct health costs of $160 million for sleep disorders and $1.08 billion for associated conditions; productivity losses of $12.19 billion ($5.22 billion reduced employment, $0.61 billion premature death, $1.73 billion absenteeism, $4.63 billion lost through workers showing up for work but not actually performing work on the job); non-medical accident costs of $2.48 billion; informal care costs of $0.41 billion; and deadweight loss of $1.56 billion. The non-financial cost of reduced well-being was $27.33 billion. Thus, the estimated overall cost of inadequate sleep in Australia in 2016-17 (population: 24.8 million) was $45.21 billion.

 

The financial and non-financial costs associated with inadequate sleep are substantial. The estimated total financial cost of $17.88 billion represents 1.55% of Australian gross domestic product. The estimated non-financial cost of $27.33 billion represents 4.6% of the total Australian burden of disease for the year. The researchers argue that these costs warrant substantial investment in preventive health measures to address the issue through education and regulation.

 

In setting national health priorities, governments have attempted to identify issues that involve high communal illness and injury burden with associated high costs for attention through public education, regulation, and other initiatives to effect improvements in health status. The authors say that governments have been remarkably successful in targeting diabetes, depression, and smoking, for example. These data presented above suggest that sleep health may merit similar attention. The situation is likely to be similar in equivalent economies.

 

Researcher quote: "We are in the midst of a worldwide epidemic of inadequate sleep, some from clinical sleep disorders, some through pressure from competing work, social and family activities and some from failure to give sleep sufficient priority through choice or ignorance. Apart from its impact on well-being, this problem comes at a huge economic cost through its destructive effects on health, safety and productivity. Addressing the issue by education, regulation and other initiatives is likely to deliver substantial economic as well as health benefits."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180604093111.htm

Effects of night-time light on internal body clock

April 30, 2018

Science Daily/The Physiological Society

New research published in The Journal of Physiology has illuminated the effects of night-time light exposure on internal body clock processes. This is important for helping those who have poor quality sleep, such as shift workers, and could help improve treatments for depression.

 

The body has an internal clock that causes various physiological processes to oscillate in 24-h cycles, called circadian rhythms, which includes daily changes in sleepiness. Light is the strongest environmental time cue that resets the body's internal 24-h clock. Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain at night that regulates this body clock and exposure to light before bedtime may reduce sleep quality by suppressing its production. The research team aimed to explore the link between the physiological process that enables our internal body clock to synchronise to external time cues (i.e. day and night) -- called circadian phase resetting -- and suppression of melatonin.

 

Melatonin suppression and circadian phase resetting are often correlated such that high levels of melatonin suppression can be associated with large shifts of the body clock. This association between the two responses has often been assumed to represent a functional relationship, resulting in the acceptance that one could be used as a proxy measure for the other. Circadian phase resetting is more difficult to measure than melatonin suppression, meaning the latter has often been used to assess disruption to the body clock caused by light exposure at night. However, this research has found that the magnitude of the shift in internal body clock is functionally independent from melatonin suppression. This casts doubt on the use of melatonin suppression as a proxy for circadian phase resetting. This knowledge may shape future research designed to improve treatments for depression and shift work sleep disorder.

 

The researchers tested the association between melatonin suppression and circadian phase resetting in participants who received either continuous or intermittent bright light exposure at night. This research procedure involved each participant completing a 9-10 day inpatient study at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, under highly controlled laboratory conditions with strict control over their sleep/wake, activity and light/dark schedules. Intermittent exposure patterns were found to show significant phase shifts with disproportionately less melatonin suppression. Moreover, each and every intermittent bright light pulse induced a similar degree of melatonin suppression, but did not appear to cause an equal magnitude of phase shift.

 

Despite the results of this study suggesting functional independence in circadian phase resetting and melatonin suppression responses to exposure to light at night, the study's conclusions may be restricted by the limited sample size in each light exposure condition.

 

Lead author Dr Shadab Rahman is excited by his team's findings, and is looking forward to investigating new avenues of interest they have opened up:

 

"Overall, our data suggest that melatonin suppression and phase resetting are sometimes correlated, but ultimately are regulated by separate neurophysiological processes. Therefore melatonin suppression is not a reliable surrogate for phase resetting. This is an important consideration for developing light-therapy treatments for people who have poor quality sleep and biological clock disruption, such as shift workers, or disorders such as depression. Additional work is needed to optimize light therapy protocols used as treatment."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180430075635.htm

Dark chocolate consumption reduces stress and inflammation

Data represent first human trials examining the impact of dark chocolate consumption on cognition and other brain functions

Science Daily/April 24, 2018

Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center

New research shows there might be health benefits to eating certain types of dark chocolate. Findings from two studies being presented today at the Experimental Biology 2018 annual meeting in San Diego show that consuming dark chocolate that has a high concentration of cacao (minimally 70% cacao, 30% organic cane sugar) has positive effects on stress levels, inflammation, mood, memory and immunity. While it is well known that cacao is a major source of flavonoids, this is the first time the effect has been studied in human subjects to determine how it can support cognitive, endocrine and cardiovascular health.

 

Lee S. Berk, DrPH, associate dean of research affairs, School of Allied Health Professions and a researcher in psychoneuroimmunology and food science from Loma Linda University, served as principal investigator on both studies.

 

"For years, we have looked at the influence of dark chocolate on neurological functions from the standpoint of sugar content -- the more sugar, the happier we are," Berk said. "This is the first time that we have looked at the impact of large amounts of cacao in doses as small as a regular-sized chocolate bar in humans over short or long periods of time, and are encouraged by the findings. These studies show us that the higher the concentration of cacao, the more positive the impact on cognition, memory, mood, immunity and other beneficial effects."

 

The flavonoids found in cacao are extremely potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, with known mechanisms beneficial for brain and cardiovascular health. The following results will be presented in live poster sessions during the Experimental Biology 2018 meeting:

 

Dark Chocolate (70% Cacao) Affects Human Gene Expression: Cacao Regulates Cellular Immune Response, Neural Signaling, and Sensory Perception

 

·     This pilot feasibility experimental trial examined the impact of 70 percent cacao chocolate consumption on human immune and dendritic cell gene expression, with focus on pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines. Study findings show cacao consumption up-regulates multiple intracellular signaling pathways involved in T-cell activation, cellular immune response and genes involved in neural signaling and sensory perception -- the latter potentially associated with the phenomena of brain hyperplasticity.

 

Dark Chocolate (70% Organic Cacao) Increases Acute and Chronic EEG Power Spectral Density (μv2) Response of Gamma Frequency (25-40Hz) for Brain Health: Enhancement of Neuroplasticity, Neural Synchrony, Cognitive Processing, Learning, Memory, Recall, and Mindfulness Meditation

 

·     This study assessed the electroencephalography (EEG) response to consuming 48 g of dark chocolate (70% cacao) after an acute period of time (30 mins) and after a chronic period of time (120 mins), on modulating brain frequencies 0-40Hz, specifically beneficial gamma frequency (25-40Hz). Findings show that this superfood of 70 percent cacao enhances neuroplasticity for behavioral and brain health benefits.

 

Berk said the studies require further investigation, specifically to determine the significance of these effects for immune cells and the brain in larger study populations. Further research is in progress to elaborate on the mechanisms that may be involved in the cause-and-effect brain-behavior relationship with cacao at this high concentration.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180424133628.htm

 

Sitting is bad for your brain -- not just your metabolism or heart

Thinning in brain regions important for memory linked to sedentary habits

April 12, 2018

Science Daily/University of California - Los Angeles

Studies show that too much sitting, like smoking, increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and premature death. Researchers found sedentary behavior is linked to thinning in regions of the brain that are critical to memory formation.

 

UCLA researchers recruited 35 people ages 45 to 75 and asked about their physical activity levels and the average number of hours per day they spent sitting over the previous week. Each person had a high-resolution MRI scan, which provides a detailed look at the medial temporal lobe, or MTL, a brain region involved in the formation of new memories.

 

The researchers found that sedentary behavior is a significant predictor of thinning of the MTL and that physical activity, even at high levels, is insufficient to offset the harmful effects of sitting for extended periods.

 

This study does not prove that too much sitting causes thinner brain structures, but instead that more hours spent sitting are associated with thinner regions, researchers said. In addition, the researchers focused on the hours spent sitting, but did not ask participants if they took breaks during this time.

 

The researchers next hope to follow a group of people for a longer duration to determine if sitting causes the thinning and what role gender, race, and weight might play in brain health related to sitting.

 

MTL thinning can be a precursor to cognitive decline and dementia in middle-aged and older adults. Reducing sedentary behavior may be a possible target for interventions designed to improve brain health in people at risk for Alzheimer's disease, researchers said.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180412141014.htm

Night owls have higher risk of dying sooner

Evening types have 10 percent higher risk of dying than morning counterparts

April 12, 2018

Science Daily/Northwestern University

Night owls -- people who prefer to stay up late and sleep late -- have 10 percent higher risk of dying sooner than larks, people who go to bed early and rise early, reports a new study. This is the first study to show 'owls' have higher risk of mortality. Owls also suffer from more diseases and disorders than morning larks. Employers should allow greater flexibility in working hours for owls, scientists said.

 

The study, on nearly half a million participants in the UK Biobank Study, found owls have a 10 percent higher risk of dying than larks. In the study sample, 50,000 people were more likely to die in the 6½ -year period sampled.

 

"Night owls trying to live in a morning lark world may have health consequences for their bodies," said co-lead author Kristen Knutson, associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

 

Previous studies in this field have focused on the higher rates of metabolic dysfunction and cardiovascular disease, but this is the first to look at mortality risk.

 

The study will be published April 12 in the journal Chronobiology International.

 

The scientists adjusted for the expected health problems in owls and still found the 10 percent higher risk of death.

 

"This is a public health issue that can no longer be ignored," said Malcolm von Schantz, a professor of chronobiology at the University of Surrey. "We should discuss allowing evening types to start and finish work later, where practical. And we need more research about how we can help evening types cope with the higher effort of keeping their body clock in synchrony with sun time."

 

"It could be that people who are up late have an internal biological clock that doesn't match their external environment," Knutson said. "It could be psychological stress, eating at the wrong time for their body, not exercising enough, not sleeping enough, being awake at night by yourself, maybe drug or alcohol use. There are a whole variety of unhealthy behaviors related to being up late in the dark by yourself."

 

In the new study, scientists found owls had higher rates of diabetes, psychological disorders and neurological disorders?

 

Can owls become larks?

 

Genetics and environment play approximately equal roles in whether we are a morning or a night type, or somewhere in between, the authors have previously reported.

 

"You're not doomed," Knutson said. "Part of it you don't have any control over and part of it you might."

 

One way to shift your behavior is to make sure you are exposed to light early in the morning but not at night, Knutson said. Try to keep a regular bedtime and not let yourself drift to later bedtimes. Be regimented about adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors and recognize the timing of when you sleep matters. Do things earlier and be less of an evening person as much as you can.

 

Society can help, too

 

"If we can recognize these chronotypes are, in part, genetically determined and not just a character flaw, jobs and work hours could have more flexibility for owls," Knutson said. "They shouldn't be forced to get up for an 8 a.m. shift. Make work shifts match peoples' chronotypes. Some people may be better suited to night shifts."

 

In future research, Knutson and colleagues want to test an intervention with owls to get them to shift their body clocks to adapt to an earlier schedule. "Then we'll see if we get improvements in blood pressure and overall health," she said.

 

The switch to daylight savings or summer time is already known to be much more difficult for evening types than for morning types.

 

"There are already reports of higher incidence of heart attacks following the switch to summer time," says von Schantz. "And we have to remember that even a small additional risk is multiplied by more than 1.3 billion people who experience this shift every year. I think we need to seriously consider whether the suggested benefits outweigh these risks."

 

How the study worked

 

For the study, researchers from the University of Surrey and Northwestern University examined the link between an individual's natural inclination toward mornings or evenings and their risk of mortality. They asked 433,268 participants, age 38 to 73 years, if they are a "definite morning type" a "moderate morning type" a "moderate evening type" or a "definite evening type." Deaths in the sample were tracked up to six and half years later.

 

The study was supported by the University of Surrey Institute?of Advanced Studies Santander fellowship and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases grant R01DK095207 from the National Institutes of Health.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180412085736.htm

Brain activity can predict success of depression treatment

April 11, 2018

Science Daily/McLean Hospital

Researchers believe they have uncovered a method that could be useful in predicting a depressed patient's treatment prognosis, prior to starting treatment.

 

McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School researchers believe they have uncovered a method that could be useful in predicting a depressed patient's treatment prognosis, prior to starting treatment.

 

In the paper "Pretreatment Rostral Anterior Cingulate Cortex Activity in Relation to Symptom Improvement in Depression: A Randomized Clinical Trial," currently available online and scheduled to appear in the June 2018 edition of JAMA Psychiatry, the investigative team details its work in identifying whether certain markers in the brain could allow clinicians to identify patients with a high or low likelihood of responding to certain treatments for depression.

 

The study was jointly first-authored by Diego A. Pizzagalli, PhD, and Christian A. Webb, PhD. "Our work shows that we could predict a patient's response to an antidepressant by looking at the activation level of the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) region of the brain by using a non-invasive monitoring system to test brain activity called an electroencephalogram -- also known as an EEG," said Diego A. Pizzagalli, director of the McLean Imaging Center as well as the hospital's Center For Depression, Anxiety and Stress Research and Laboratory for Translational and Affective Neuroscience. Webb, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and director of the Treatment and Etiology of Depression in Youth Laboratory, noted that this is the first study to "demonstrate the 'incremental predictive validity' of this neural marker, that is, the fact that activity in this brain region predicts the likelihood of treatment response above and beyond the contribution of a range of low-cost and easily administered clinical and demographic characteristics previously shown to predict treatment outcome."

 

For this study, the team built upon Pizzagalli's previous work showing that EEG recordings of rostral ACC activity could predict the eventual response. "In that prior study, we saw that the higher the activity before the start of the treatment, the better the clinical response months later," noted Pizzagalli, who is also a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

 

For the new study, more than 300 patients were tested at four sites in the United States -- using sertraline for the treatment group. "We showed that the rostral ACC marker predicted clinical response eight weeks later, even when statistically controlling for demographics and clinical variables previously linked to treatment response," said Pizzagalli. "For those with the marker of good response, a clinician could tell patients that they have a high chance of benefitting from the intervention, and they should stay engaged in treatment," he explained. Conversely, he said, for patients with the marker of low response, "clinicians could decide to start with more aggressive treatment at the outset, such as a combination of pharmacology and psychotherapy, and importantly, monitor these patients more closely."

 

Soon, Webb, Pizzagalli, and their colleagues plan to deploy these approaches on patients at McLean Hospital to determine whether they can lead to treatment-specific predictions. "Our vision is to determine if an optimal combination of markers -- including brain-based but also clinical and demographic characteristics -- might allow us to predict response to drug A but not drug B or psychotherapy, for example," Webb explained.

 

Also, if an ACC marker predicts better response, researchers might develop cognitive training that specifically targets this region, which could increase brain activation to accelerate or boost response to more traditional intervention. Pizzagalli and his team hope to engage in further research into this concept by testing patients with major depressive disorder.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180411111103.htm

 

Lingering negative responses to stress linked with health a decade later

April 9, 2018

Science Daily/Association for Psychological Science

People whose negative emotional responses to stress carry over to the following day are more likely to report health problems and physical limitations later in life compared with peers who are able to 'let it go.'

 

"Our research shows that negative emotions that linger after even minor, daily stressors have important implications for our long-term physical health," says psychological scientist Kate Leger of the University of California, Irvine.

 

"When most people think of the types of stressors that impact health, they think of the big things, major life events that severely impact their lives, such as the death of a loved one or getting divorced," Leger says. "But accumulating findings suggest that it's not just the big events, but minor, everyday stressors that can impact our health as well."

 

Evidence from previous studies suggests a clear association between same-day responses to stress and long-term well-being, but the impact of lingering emotional responses remained unclear. That is, does it make a difference if a stressor -- such as a flat tire, a bad grade, or an argument -- leads to negative emotions that spill over into the following day?

 

To find out, Leger and colleagues Susan T. Charles and David M. Almeida analyzed data from the Midlife in the United States Survey, a nationally representative, longitudinal study of adults.

 

As part of the study, participants completed an 8-day survey of negative emotion; each day, they reported how much of the time over the previous 24 hours they had felt a variety of emotions (e.g., lonely, afraid, irritable, and angry). They also reported the stressors that they experienced each day.

 

In a subsequent part of the study that took place 10 years later, the participants completed surveys that assessed their chronic illnesses and functional limitations. Participants reported the degree to which they were able to carry out basic and everyday tasks, such as dressing themselves, climbing a flight of stairs, carrying groceries, and walking several blocks.

 

As expected, people tended to report higher negative emotion if they had experienced a stressor the previous day compared with if they hadn't experienced any stressor the day before.

 

Critically, analyses revealed that lingering negative emotions in response to a stressor were associated with a greater number of health problems, including chronic illnesses, functional impairments, and difficulties with everyday tasks, a decade later.

 

These associations emerged independently of participants' gender, education, and baseline health and they held even after the researchers took participants' same-day emotional responses and average number of stressors into account.

 

"This means that health outcomes don't just reflect how people react to daily stressors, or the number of stressors they are exposed to -- there is something unique about how negative they feel the next day that has important consequences for physical health," explains Leger.

 

Leger and colleagues hypothesize that this link could play out through activation of stress-related systems or through health behaviors, two potential mechanisms that offer avenues for future research.

 

"Stress is common in our everyday lives. It happens at work, it happens at school, it happens at home and in our relationships," says Leger. "Our research shows that the strategy to 'just let it go' could be beneficial to our long term physical health."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180409161315.htm

Study found people would rather pop a pill or sip tea than exercise to treat high blood pressure

April 8, 2018

Science Daily/American Heart Association

Survey respondents were more likely to choose a daily cup of tea or a pill over exercise to 'treat' high blood pressure in an imaginary scenario, but many didn't think the interventions were worth the benefits. When the perceived gain of treating hypertension was higher -- one or five extra years of life versus one extra month, for example -- survey respondents were more likely to say they would.

 

Researchers wanted to find out how people weigh the benefits of high blood pressure treatment options against its inconvenience. They asked survey respondents to imagine that they had high blood pressure and then asked about their willingness to adopt any of four "treatments" to gain an extra month, year or five years of life. In this survey, the "treatments" proposed were: a daily cup of tea, exercise, pills or monthly or semi-annual injections.

 

Results showed that taking a pill or drinking a daily up of tea were the preferred treatments, though some were unwilling to adopt any intervention even if it meant gaining an additional year or five years of life. For each treatment, participants were more likely to say they would adopt it if the benefit were greater:

 

·     79 percent of respondents said they would be willing to take a pill for an extra month of life, 90 percent would for an extra year of life and 96 percent would for an extra five years of life;

·     78 percent said they would drink a daily cup of tea for one extra month of life, 91 percent would for one extra year of life and 96 percent would drink it for an extra five years of life;

·     63 percent would be willing to exercise for an extra month of life, 84 percent would for an extra year of life and 93 percent would exercise if it meant an extra five years of life;

·     A shot was the least preferred of the options -- 68 percent would take a shot every six months if it would give them an extra month of life, 85 percent would do it for an extra year of life and 93 percent would be willing if it gave them another five years, but only about half (51 percent) would take a monthly shot for an extra month of life, 74 percent would for an extra year and 88 percent would opt for an injection every month if it gave them five extra years of life.

 

In addition, at least 20 percent of respondents wanted to achieve gains in life expectancy beyond what any of the individual interventions could provide.

 

"Our findings demonstrate that people naturally assign different weights to the pluses and minuses of interventions to improve cardiovascular health," said Erica Spatz, M.D., M.H.S., the study lead author and an assistant professor of cardiovascular medicine in the Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, CT. "I believe we need to tap into this framework when we are talking with patients about options to manage their blood pressure. We are good about discussing side effects, but rarely do we find out if other inconveniences or burdens may be impacting a person's willingness to take a lifelong medication or to exercise regularly."

 

From March to June 2017, 1,284 U.S. adults recruited through Amazon MTurk and 100 patients attending an outpatient health clinic completed the survey. Most survey respondents were under 45 years old, and half were female. Roughly three-quarters of respondents were non-Hispanic white, 10 percent were African American, 7 percent were Hispanic or Latino, and 8 percent were Asian. Most had high blood pressure.

 

A study limitation is that most respondents were relatively young. Since cardiovascular disease is more common among older people, they may have different responses than younger people. Another limitation is that survey respondents were not told the true life-extending ability of each intervention.

 

High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for heart and blood vessel, or cardiovascular, disease. Yet, it is often called the silent killer because it causes no symptoms. To prevent high blood pressure, the American Heart Association recommends getting regular physical activity, in addition to other lifestyle changes. These changes include eating a healthy diet, limiting alcohol, managing stress, maintaining a healthy weight, and quitting smoking. It is also important to work with a healthcare provider and to properly take medications, if prescribed, to reduce blood pressure.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180408190404.htm

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