HealthMedicine2

Low resilience puts men at risk for depression

October 24, 2018

Science Daily/Florida State University

Men who lack resilience are exponentially more vulnerable to becoming severely depressed after their spouse dies, according to a new study.

 

Brittany King, a graduate student in the Department of Sociology, along with Assistant Professor Dawn Carr and Associate Professor Miles Taylor, examined the symptoms of depression in older men and women before and after they experienced the loss of their spouse.

 

Their findings were recently published in The Gerontologist.

 

"People are living longer," King said. "Successful aging is important, and these findings add to the knowledge base that will help us have a more robust and healthy older adult population."

 

The research team used data from the Health and Retirement Study which surveyed married people, ages 51 and older, between 2006 and 2012. They examined the changes in depressive symptoms among men and women who lost their spouse and those who remained married. Their survey sample included 2,877 women, 335 of whom became widowed, and 2,749 men, 136 of whom became widowed, within a four-year time span.

 

Researchers used survey responses to give each participant a Simplified Resilience Score based on 12 questions, such as "if something can go wrong for me it will," or "I have a sense of direction and purpose in my life."

 

They found that if a man became widowed and had a high resilience score, they experienced no increase in depressive symptoms. Despite the loss of a spouse, their level of well-being almost mirrored that of their married counterparts.

 

However, men with a low resilience score faired much worse. Males who became widowed and had low levels of resilience experienced an increase of about three additional depressive symptoms -- their married counterparts only experienced about one additional depressive symptom over a four-year period.

 

For women it was different.

 

They found women who had a low resilience score of four or below experienced a slight increase in depressive symptoms whether they became widowed or stayed married. Widowed women with high resilience scores also experienced a slight increase in depressive symptoms.

 

"For widowed women, high levels of resilience did little to reduce increases in depression following spousal loss," Carr said. "In contrast, men with these high levels of internal resources overcome all of that, they recover really well within a four-year period and move on. Yet having low resilience appears to be particularly bad for men who on average experienced three additional depressive symptoms out of eight."

 

Women who were continuously married with high levels of resilience experienced a small decrease in depressive symptoms within four years.

 

Researchers speculate external resources, such as social networks, could be one explanation for the gender divide. Women tend to have more external resources in terms of social support such as friends and family. On the other hand, older men may be more vulnerable after losing their main social contact and source of care.

 

FSU scholars suggest additional research could examine gender differences following the loss of a spouse, specifically examining internal resources that may aid in the absence of social resources. They also said finding ways to bolster resilience earlier in life should be explored further.

 

"It's becoming increasingly evident through our research on resilience that the things that happen to us early in our lives play an important role in influencing how we respond to difficult life events over our life course," Carr said. "Our early life experiences seem to have a persisting influence on our psychological resources, ultimately shaping how well we handle the loss of a spouse even 50 years later. In future research, we are hoping to learn more about whether we can improve psychological resilience in later life to help people who are especially vulnerable to a major loss."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181024122408.htm

Short winter days trigger aggression hormones differently based on sex

Territorial hamsters reveal biological mechanism behind the difference in male versus female aggression

November 18, 2015

Science Daily/Indiana University

Researchers have discovered a hormonal mechanism in hamsters that connects short winter days with increased aggression in females, and that it differs from the mechanism that controls this same response in males.

https://images.sciencedaily.com/2015/11/151118070754_1_540x360.jpg

A female hamster displays aggressive behavior.

Credit: Frank Scherbarth

 

The work, which advances basic knowledge on the connection between certain sex hormones and aggression, could go on to advance research on the treatment of inappropriate aggression in humans.

 

The study appears online Nov. 18 in the Proceedings of the Royal Academy B. The research is a collaboration between the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Biology and Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

 

"This study reveals a ripe area for research," said Nikki Rendon, a Ph.D. student in biology and lead author on the study.

 

"The results show for the first time that melatonin acts directly on the adrenal glands in females to trigger a 'seasonal aggression switch' from hormones in the gonads to hormones in the adrenal glands -- a major contrast to how this mechanism works in males."

 

Other IU authors were Gregory Demas, professor of biology, and Dale Sengelaub, professor of psychological and brain sciences.

 

Rendon is a member in the lab of Demas, who was part of the team that first discovered a connection between shorter days and aggression in animals.

 

Demas' earlier research also found that wintertime aggression in hamsters arises not from sex hormones in the gonads -- ovaries in females and testes in males, which grow less active during shorter days -- but rather the adrenal glands, located at the top of the kidneys.

 

Melatonin is a hormone that rises in the body during darkness and lowers during daylight. The hormone from the adrenal gland is dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, a sex steroid shown to affect aggression levels in mammals and birds, and possibly humans. Professional sports competitions have banned the use of DHEA in athletes.

 

In another previous study, Demas' lab found that melatonin -- in concert with a hormone secreted by the brain's pituitary gland called adrenocorticotropic, or ACTH -- increases the output and enhances the effects of DHEA from adrenal glands in males.

 

In contrast, Rendon and colleagues' new study reveals that melatonin acts directly on the adrenal glands in females to trigger the release of DHEA, without the need for the pituitary hormone.

 

DHEA can be converted to androgens and estrogens, which affect aggression in both males and females. In females, DHEA appears to compensate for low levels of estradiol -- a form of estrogen -- that occurs during the winter.

 

Evolutionarily, wintertime aggression may confer an advantage during periods of scarce food.

 

"This study, which builds upon our previous work investigating the connection between short days and aggression in males, shows noteworthy hormonal mechanisms in females and provides important new insights into the role of sex in these mechanisms," Demas said.

 

The research was conducted in Siberian hamsters, or Phodopus sungorus, a species with a similar adrenal system to humans. About 130 hamsters were exposed to long days for a week, after which 45 were exposed to shorter days for 10 weeks. A random subset also received an injection of ACTH.

 

A highly territorial species, the hamsters were then placed in situations where one hamster was perceived as an intruder into the other's territory, sparking aggressive actions and short physical fights. The scientists then tracked certain actions, such as the time until an attack, the number of attacks and the length of the attacks, to assign an "aggression score."

 

The female hamsters exposed to shorter days had increased levels of both melatonin and DHEA -- and higher aggression scores -- along with physical changes in their adrenal glands.

 

Females exposed to longer days did not experience these changes, including those that had received an injection of ACTH, which is known to trigger the release of DHEA.

 

Collectively, the results show that melatonin is the primary regulator of aggression in females.

 

"It's growing increasingly clear that sex hormones play an important role in controlling aggression in both males and females -- but females, human and non-human, are traditionally vastly understudied in the sciences," Rendon said. "By conducting this research on females, we are increasing our understanding of hormones and social behavior in a field currently dominated by discussions on testosterone regulating aggression in males."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151118070754.htm

'Likes' less likely to affect self-esteem of people with purpose

September 21, 2016
Science Daily/Cornell University
How many likes did I get? The rush of self-esteem that comes with the ubiquitous thumbs-up has more people asking that question, as Facebook and other social media sites offer more ways for friends to endorse photos and posts.

But one group seems immune to that rush: people with a sense of purpose.

In the first study on the effects of purpose in the online world, Cornell researchers have found that having a sense of purpose limits how reactive people are to positive feedback on social media.

"We found that having a sense of purpose allowed people to navigate virtual feedback with more rigidity and persistence. With a sense of purpose, they're not so malleable to the number of likes they receive," said Anthony Burrow, co-author of the study and assistant professor of human development. "Purposeful people noticed the positive feedback, but did not rely on it to feel good about themselves."

Burrow and other researchers define a sense of purpose as ongoing motivation that is self-directed, oriented toward the future and beneficial to others. People with a strong sense of purpose tend to agree with such statements as "To me, all the things I do are worthwhile" and "I have lots of reasons for living."

While it is nice to receive compliments, online or otherwise, it may not be a good thing to base one's self-esteem on them, Burrow said.

"Otherwise, on days when you receive few likes, you'll feel worse. Your self-esteem would be contingent on what other people say and think," he said. "Over time that's not healthy, that's not adaptive. You want to show up with rigidity: 'I know who I am and I feel good about that.'"

The study, "How many likes did I get?: Purpose moderates links between positive social media feedback and self-esteem," appeared Sept. 14 in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

The researchers hypothesize that because purposeful people have the ability to see themselves in the future and act in ways that help them achieve their goals, they are able to inhibit impulsive responses to perceived rewards, such that they prefer larger downstream incentives to smaller immediate ones, said co-author Nicolette Rainone '16.

The researchers conducted two experiments to get these results.

In the first, they recruited nearly 250 active Facebook users from around the country. They measured the participants' self-esteem and sense of purpose, and asked how many likes they typically got on photos they posted.

The Facebook users who reported getting more likes on average also reported greater self-esteem. But those with a high level of purpose showed no change in self-esteem, no matter how many likes they got. "That is, receiving more likes only corresponded with greater self-esteem for those who had lower levels of purpose," Burrow said.

In the second study, the researchers asked about 100 Cornell students to take a selfie and post it to a mock social media site, "Faces of the Ivies." The students were told that their photo had received a high, low or average number of likes.

Getting a high number of likes boosted self-esteem -- but, again, only for students who had less purpose. "In fact, those higher in purpose showed no elevation in self-esteem, even when they were told they received a high number of likes," Burrow said.

This is the first study to show purpose lowers reactivity to positive events. Most research to date on purpose has looked at it as buffer against negative events such as stress.

Without a sense of purpose, one can act against one's own interests even when something positive happens, said Rainone, who is a program assistant for the Program for Research on Youth Development and Engagement at Cornell's Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research. "For example, if I'm studying for a big exam and get a good score on a practice test, that can make me think, 'Oh, I really don't need to study.' And that may ultimately decrease my final score, because I stopped persisting," she said. "Having a purpose keeps you emotionally steady which is essential for successful academic and work performance."
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160921152243.htm

 

Link found between selfie viewing, decreased self-esteem

October 19, 2016
Science Daily/Penn State University
Frequent viewing of selfies through social network sites like Facebook is linked to a decrease in self-esteem and life satisfaction, according to researchers. Viewing behavior is also called "lurking" -- when a person does not participate in posting or liking social content, but is just an observer. This form of participation in social media may sound like it should have little effect on how humans view themselves, but the study has revealed the exact opposite.

The researchers discovered the more often people viewed their own and others' selfies, the lower their level of self-esteem and life satisfaction.
Credit: © patramansky / Fotolia

Viewing behavior is also called "lurking" -- when a person does not participate in posting or liking social content, but is just an observer. This form of participation in social media may sound like it should have little effect on how humans view themselves, but the study, published online in the Journal of Telematics and Informatics, revealed the exact opposite.

Wang and Fan Yang, graduate student in mass communications, conducted an online survey to collect data on the psychological effects of posting and viewing selfies and groupies. They worked with Wang's graduate adviser, Michel Haigh, associate professor in communications. Posting behavior did not have significant psychological effects for participants. Viewing behavior did. They discovered the more often people viewed their own and others' selfies, the lower their level of self-esteem and life satisfaction.

"People usually post selfies when they're happy or having fun," said Wang. "This makes it easy for someone else to look at these pictures and think your his or her life is not as great as theirs."

Those participants categorized as having a strong desire to appear popular were even more sensitive to selfie and groupie viewing. In this case, however, Sselfie and groupie viewing behavior increased the self-esteem and life satisfaction for these participants, likely because this activity satisfied the participants' desires to appear popular, according to the researchers.

Wang and Yang hope their work can raise awareness about social media use and the effect it has on viewers of people's social networks.

"We don't often think about how what we post affects the people around us," said Yang. "I think this study can help people understand the potential consequences of their posting behavior. This can help counselors work with students feeling lonely, unpopular, or unsatisfied with their lives."
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161019141814.htm

Do you really need eight glasses a day? Study challenges idea of mandatory water intake

October 11, 2016
Science Daily/Johns Hopkins Medicine
Taking calcium in the form of supplements may raise the risk of plaque buildup in arteries and heart damage, although a diet high in calcium-rich foods appears be protective, say researchers at conclusion of their study that analyzed 10 years of medical tests on more than 2,700 people.
https://images.sciencedaily.com/2016/10/161011182621_1_540x360.jpg
More than half of women over 60 take calcium supplements -- many without the oversight of a physician -- because they believe it will reduce their risk of osteoporosis, researchers estimate.
Credit: © sasimoto / Fotolia

After analyzing 10 years of medical tests on more than 2,700 people in a federally funded heart disease study, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine and elsewhere conclude that taking calcium in the form of supplements may raise the risk of plaque buildup in arteries and heart damage, although a diet high in calcium-rich foods appears be protective.

In a report on the research, published Oct. 10 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the researchers caution that their work only documents an association between calcium supplements and atherosclerosis, and does not prove cause and effect.

But they say the results add to growing scientific concerns about the potential harms of supplements, and they urge a consultation with a knowledgeable physician before using calcium supplements. An estimated 43 percent of American adult men and women take a supplement that includes calcium, according the National Institutes of Health.

"When it comes to using vitamin and mineral supplements, particularly calcium supplements being taken for bone health, many Americans think that more is always better," says Erin Michos, M.D., M.H.S., associate director of preventive cardiology and associate professor of medicine at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "But our study adds to the body of evidence that excess calcium in the form of supplements may harm the heart and vascular system."

The researchers were motivated to look at the effects of calcium on the heart and vascular system because studies already showed that "ingested calcium supplements -- particularly in older people -- don't make it to the skeleton or get completely excreted in the urine, so they must be accumulating in the body's soft tissues," says nutritionist John Anderson, Ph.D., professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Gillings School of Global Public Health and a co-author of the report. Scientists also knew that as a person ages, calcium-based plaque builds up in the body's main blood vessel, the aorta and other arteries, impeding blood flow and increasing the risk of heart attack.

The investigators looked at detailed information from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, a long-running research project funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, which included more than 6,000 people seen at six research universities, including Johns Hopkins. Their study focused on 2,742 of these participants who completed dietary questionnaires and two CT scans spanning 10 years apart.

The participants chosen for this study ranged in age from 45 to 84, and 51 percent were female. Forty-one percent were white, 26 percent were African-American, 22 percent were Hispanic and 12 percent were Chinese. At the study's onset in 2000, all participants answered a 120-part questionnaire about their dietary habits to determine how much calcium they took in by eating dairy products; leafy greens; calcium-enriched foods, like cereals; and other calcium-rich foods. Separately, the researchers inventoried what drugs and supplements each participant took on a daily basis. The investigators used cardiac CT scans to measure participants' coronary artery calcium scores, a measure of calcification in the heart's arteries and a marker of heart disease risk when the score is above zero. Initially, 1,175 participants showed plaque in their heart arteries. The coronary artery calcium tests were repeated 10 years later to assess newly developing or worsening coronary heart disease.

For the analysis, the researchers first split the participants into five groups based on their total calcium intake, including both calcium supplements and dietary calcium. After adjusting the data for age, sex, race, exercise, smoking, income, education, weight, smoking, drinking, blood pressure, blood sugar and family medical history, the researchers separated out 20 percent of participants with the highest total calcium intake, which was greater than 1,400 milligrams of calcium a day. That group was found to be on average 27 percent less likely than the 20 percent of participants with the lowest calcium intake -- less than 400 milligrams of daily calcium -- to develop heart disease, as indicated by their coronary artery calcium test.

Next, the investigators focused on the differences among those taking in only dietary calcium and those using calcium supplements. Forty-six percent of their study population used calcium supplements.

The researchers again accounted for the same demographic and lifestyle factors that could influence heart disease risk, as in the previous analysis, and found that supplement users showed a 22 percent increased likelihood of having their coronary artery calcium scores rise higher than zero over the decade, indicating development of heart disease.

"There is clearly something different in how the body uses and responds to supplements versus intake through diet that makes it riskier," says Anderson. "It could be that supplements contain calcium salts, or it could be from taking a large dose all at once that the body is unable to process."

Among participants with highest dietary intake of calcium -- over 1,022 milligrams per day -- there was no increase in relative risk of developing heart disease over the 10-year study period.

"Based on this evidence, we can tell our patients that there doesn't seem to be any harm in eating a heart-healthy diet that includes calcium-rich foods, and it may even be beneficial for the heart," says Michos. "But patients should really discuss any plan to take calcium supplements with their doctor to sort out a proper dosage or whether they even need them."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, coronary heart disease kills over 370,000 people each year in the U.S. More than half of women over 60 take calcium supplements -- many without the oversight of a physician -- because they believe it will reduce their risk of osteoporosis.
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161011182621.htm

 

Calcium supplements may damage the heart

October 11, 2016
Science Daily/Johns Hopkins Medicine
Taking calcium in the form of supplements may raise the risk of plaque buildup in arteries and heart damage, although a diet high in calcium-rich foods appears be protective, say researchers at conclusion of their study that analyzed 10 years of medical tests on more than 2,700 people.
https://images.sciencedaily.com/2016/10/161011182621_1_540x360.jpg
More than half of women over 60 take calcium supplements -- many without the oversight of a physician -- because they believe it will reduce their risk of osteoporosis, researchers estimate.
Credit: © sasimoto / Fotolia

After analyzing 10 years of medical tests on more than 2,700 people in a federally funded heart disease study, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine and elsewhere conclude that taking calcium in the form of supplements may raise the risk of plaque buildup in arteries and heart damage, although a diet high in calcium-rich foods appears be protective.

In a report on the research, published Oct. 10 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the researchers caution that their work only documents an association between calcium supplements and atherosclerosis, and does not prove cause and effect.

But they say the results add to growing scientific concerns about the potential harms of supplements, and they urge a consultation with a knowledgeable physician before using calcium supplements. An estimated 43 percent of American adult men and women take a supplement that includes calcium, according the National Institutes of Health.

"When it comes to using vitamin and mineral supplements, particularly calcium supplements being taken for bone health, many Americans think that more is always better," says Erin Michos, M.D., M.H.S., associate director of preventive cardiology and associate professor of medicine at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "But our study adds to the body of evidence that excess calcium in the form of supplements may harm the heart and vascular system."

The researchers were motivated to look at the effects of calcium on the heart and vascular system because studies already showed that "ingested calcium supplements -- particularly in older people -- don't make it to the skeleton or get completely excreted in the urine, so they must be accumulating in the body's soft tissues," says nutritionist John Anderson, Ph.D., professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Gillings School of Global Public Health and a co-author of the report. Scientists also knew that as a person ages, calcium-based plaque builds up in the body's main blood vessel, the aorta and other arteries, impeding blood flow and increasing the risk of heart attack.

The investigators looked at detailed information from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, a long-running research project funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, which included more than 6,000 people seen at six research universities, including Johns Hopkins. Their study focused on 2,742 of these participants who completed dietary questionnaires and two CT scans spanning 10 years apart.

The participants chosen for this study ranged in age from 45 to 84, and 51 percent were female. Forty-one percent were white, 26 percent were African-American, 22 percent were Hispanic and 12 percent were Chinese. At the study's onset in 2000, all participants answered a 120-part questionnaire about their dietary habits to determine how much calcium they took in by eating dairy products; leafy greens; calcium-enriched foods, like cereals; and other calcium-rich foods. Separately, the researchers inventoried what drugs and supplements each participant took on a daily basis. The investigators used cardiac CT scans to measure participants' coronary artery calcium scores, a measure of calcification in the heart's arteries and a marker of heart disease risk when the score is above zero. Initially, 1,175 participants showed plaque in their heart arteries. The coronary artery calcium tests were repeated 10 years later to assess newly developing or worsening coronary heart disease.

For the analysis, the researchers first split the participants into five groups based on their total calcium intake, including both calcium supplements and dietary calcium. After adjusting the data for age, sex, race, exercise, smoking, income, education, weight, smoking, drinking, blood pressure, blood sugar and family medical history, the researchers separated out 20 percent of participants with the highest total calcium intake, which was greater than 1,400 milligrams of calcium a day. That group was found to be on average 27 percent less likely than the 20 percent of participants with the lowest calcium intake -- less than 400 milligrams of daily calcium -- to develop heart disease, as indicated by their coronary artery calcium test.

Next, the investigators focused on the differences among those taking in only dietary calcium and those using calcium supplements. Forty-six percent of their study population used calcium supplements.

The researchers again accounted for the same demographic and lifestyle factors that could influence heart disease risk, as in the previous analysis, and found that supplement users showed a 22 percent increased likelihood of having their coronary artery calcium scores rise higher than zero over the decade, indicating development of heart disease.

"There is clearly something different in how the body uses and responds to supplements versus intake through diet that makes it riskier," says Anderson. "It could be that supplements contain calcium salts, or it could be from taking a large dose all at once that the body is unable to process."

Among participants with highest dietary intake of calcium -- over 1,022 milligrams per day -- there was no increase in relative risk of developing heart disease over the 10-year study period.

"Based on this evidence, we can tell our patients that there doesn't seem to be any harm in eating a heart-healthy diet that includes calcium-rich foods, and it may even be beneficial for the heart," says Michos. "But patients should really discuss any plan to take calcium supplements with their doctor to sort out a proper dosage or whether they even need them."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, coronary heart disease kills over 370,000 people each year in the U.S. More than half of women over 60 take calcium supplements -- many without the oversight of a physician -- because they believe it will reduce their risk of osteoporosis.
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161011182621.htm

 

Does weed help you sleep? Probably not

October 17, 2016
Science Daily/Boston University
Marijuana users may believe that frequent use helps them sleep, but that perception has been challenged by a new study. It found that daily marijuana users actually scored higher on the Insomnia Severity Index and on sleep-disturbance measures than those who did not use it daily.

The study, published in the Journal of Addictive Diseases, was coauthored by Michael Stein, an SPH professor and chair of health law, policy, and management. It found that daily marijuana users actually scored higher on the Insomnia Severity Index and on sleep-disturbance measures than those who did not use it daily. The study's 98 subjects were broken into three groups: daily users of marijuana (49 people); those who were not daily users (29), defined as those who smoked at least one day in the past month and up to five days a week; and a control group who didn't use the drug at all (20). Most of the study participants were in their early 20s.

"Better sleep is one of the positive effects that marijuana users swear by, but there has been relatively little careful research on this topic," says Stein, the study's principal investigator.

In the study, he and colleagues cite previous research indicating that as many as one-third of young adults, ages 18 to 25, complain of sleep problems. The study findings show that while occasional marijuana use doesn't disrupt sleep, heavy (or daily) marijuana use is associated with sleep difficulties.

"The effects of marijuana on sleep in intermittent users may be similar, in part, to those of alcohol, where improvements in sleep continuity measures have been reported with intermittent use," the researchers wrote. But "daily use results in the worsening of sleep."

The study examined sleep patterns in the three groups of young adults. The researchers found no significant differences in the sleep characteristics of those who did not use marijuana daily compared to those who did not use it at all. Daytime sleepiness also did not differ among heavy users, lighter users, and nonusers.

"Sleep disturbance, which is common in this age group, may not be increased by non-daily use," the authors wrote.

While 20 percent of the nonsmokers met the criteria for clinical insomnia, for the daily users meeting those criteria, it was 39 percent. Similarly, sleep disruption measures were worse for daily users than for occasional users.

The researchers noted that daily marijuana users typically reported smoking marijuana in the daytime and at night, and less frequent users smoked primarily at night.

"Study participants who didn't smoke every day usually smoked in the evening," Stein says. "But once you're smoking multiple times a day, there's a greater chance that you'll report disturbed sleep. Only by stopping marijuana completely, and waiting some time without using at all, will a person be able to determine how marijuana was affecting, or not affecting, his or her sleep."

The research team cited previous studies showing an association between higher marijuana use and higher rates of anxiety, which may be a factor in disrupted sleep.

"It remains possible that the [insomnia] scores might have been higher in the daily marijuana users because marijuana was contributing to anxiety, which in turn may have exacerbated the severity of insomnia," they wrote. But, as Stein notes, "only by doing prospective longitudinal studies can we begin to get at the causal chain here."

Stein and colleagues recommend that future studies look at mood disorders as a factor in the relationship between marijuana use and sleep. People with anxiety may be heavier users of marijuana because they are trying to mitigate their sleep problems, they said.

In terms of gender (45 men and 53 women participated in the study), the research team found that women reported more sleep disturbance problems than men on several measures. That finding was expected, Stein says, as insomnia is more common in women than men. Also, marijuana use has been shown to affect women's performance on neurological tasks more than it affects men's.

The research team urges more study of the issue, so that health providers can talk more clearly to marijuana users about its effects on sleep, and drug-treatment providers can "meaningfully target sleep" among heavy marijuana users.

Marijuana is one of the most commonly used drugs in the United States, especially among young adults 18 to 25. Many users report turning to the drug to alleviate a variety of medical and psychiatric symptoms, including pain, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"The biopsychosocial changes of young adulthood affecting sleep are well known and may contribute to marijuana use," the authors wrote.
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161017155004.htm

 

Patients with insomnia have altered activity in specific brain regions

October 19, 2016
Science Daily/University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC)
Specific brain regions, including those involved in awareness of self and tendency to ruminate, show altered activity in patients with insomnia when compared to good sleepers, according to a new study.

In what is the largest study of its kind on insomnia, a research group led by Daniel Buysse M.D., professor of psychiatry and clinical and translational science, and the UPMC Professor of Sleep Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, identified differences in brain activity between states of sleep and wakefulness in 44 patients diagnosed with insomnia and 40 good sleepers.

"While patients with insomnia often have their symptoms trivialized by friends, families and even physicians, the findings in this study add strong evidence to the emerging view that insomnia is a condition with neurobiological as well as psychological causes," said Dr. Buysse, who is the senior author on the study. The study also shows that brain activity during sleep is more nuanced than previously thought, with different brain regions experiencing varying 'depths' of sleep.

The findings may help improve current treatments for insomnia such as transcranial magnetic stimulation, and increase understanding of why treatments such as mindfulness meditation are effective in some patients.

Researchers used positron emission tomography (PET) scans during which participants were injected with a solution of glucose molecules tagged with a 'tracer.' Brain regions with higher activity took up a proportionally higher amount of the radioactively tagged glucose and were more metabolically active on the PET scans.

Data from the scans revealed relative activity differences in specific brain regions between states of sleep and wakefulness in patients with insomnia and good sleepers. The differences can be attributed to either decreased activity during wakefulness or heightened activity during sleep, the researchers report.

Dysfunction in the brain regions identified in the study may correlate to specific symptoms in patients with insomnia, including impairments in self-awareness and mood, memory deficits and rumination, according to the authors.

Though the study design did not allow authors to discern whether brain activity changes were the cause or consequence of insomnia, the results do indicate that sleep is not uniform across different parts of the brain, contradicting the prevailing view that the entire brain is 'on' while awake and 'off' while asleep. The study also refines results from an earlier, similar study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Sleep Medicine Institute that had fewer participants.
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161019162505.htm

 

How lying takes our brains down a 'slippery slope' Telling small lies desensitizes our brains to the associated negative emotions and may encourage us to tell bigger lies in future

October 24, 2016
Science Daily/University College London
Telling small lies desensitizes our brains to the associated negative emotions and may encourage us to tell bigger lies in future, reveals new research.
https://images.sciencedaily.com/2016/10/161024134012_1_540x360.jpg
Researchers have shown that self-serving lies gradually escalate, and they have revealed how this happens in our brains.
Credit: © pathdoc / Fotolia

The research, published in Nature Neuroscience, provides the first empirical evidence that self-serving lies gradually escalate and reveals how this happens in our brains.

The team scanned volunteers' brains while they took part in tasks where they could lie for personal gain. They found that the amygdala, a part of the brain associated with emotion, was most active when people first lied for personal gain. The amygdala's response to lying declined with every lie while the magnitude of the lies escalated. Crucially, the researchers found that larger drops in amygdala activity predicted bigger lies in future.

"When we lie for personal gain, our amygdala produces a negative feeling that limits the extent to which we are prepared to lie," explains senior author Dr Tali Sharot (UCL Experimental Psychology). "However, this response fades as we continue to lie, and the more it falls the bigger our lies become. This may lead to a 'slippery slope' where small acts of dishonesty escalate into more significant lies."

The study included 80 volunteers who took part in a team estimation task that involved guessing the number of pennies in a jar and sending their estimates to unseen partners using a computer. This took place in several different scenarios. In the baseline scenario, participants were told that aiming for the most accurate estimate would benefit them and their partner. In various other scenarios, over- or under-estimating the amount would either benefit them at their partner's expense, benefit both of them, benefit their partner at their own expense, or only benefit one of them with no effect on the other.

When over-estimating the amount would benefit the volunteer at their partner's expense, people started by slightly exaggerating their estimates which elicited strong amygdala responses. Their exaggerations escalated as the experiment went on while their amygdala responses declined.

"It is likely the brain's blunted response to repeated acts of dishonesty reflects a reduced emotional response to these acts," says lead author Dr Neil Garrett (UCL Experimental Psychology). "This is in line with suggestions that our amygdala signals aversion to acts that we consider wrong or immoral. We only tested dishonesty in this experiment, but the same principle may also apply to escalations in other actions such as risk taking or violent behaviour."

Dr Raliza Stoyanova, Senior Portfolio Developer, in the Neuroscience and Mental Health team at Wellcome, said: "This is a very interesting first look at the brain's response to repeated and increasing acts of dishonesty. Future work would be needed to tease out more precisely whether these acts of dishonesty are indeed linked to a blunted emotional response, and whether escalations in other types of behaviour would have the same effect."
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161024134012.htm

 

More than 50% of Americans now have at least one chronic health condition, mental disorder or substance-use issue

October 25, 2016
Science Daily/Taylor & Francis
With the future of US healthcare likely to rest on the next presidency, a new study highlights just how complex the medical needs of many Americans now are.

As the authors of the study, Elizabeth Lee Reisinger Walker and Benjamin G. Druss, observe: "The health of individuals in the U.S.A. is increasingly being defined by complexity and multimorbidity, the co-occurrence of two or more chronic medical conditions."

Given the medical and socio-economic difficulties often faced by people with mental illness, and the lack of research into the other medical conditions they might suffer from, the authors set out to discover, using publicly available data, what proportion of US adults experience each combination of mental illness, substance abuse/dependence and chronic mental conditions. They also investigated how those combinations of conditions were related to poverty.

They found that overall, 18.4% of adults had a mental illness in the past year, and 8.6% reported substance abuse/dependence during the same time. Nearly 40% had one or more chronic medical conditions in their lifetimes, and 14.7% were living in poverty.

Compared to individuals without any condition, adults with one condition (any mental illness [AMI], substance abuse/dependence or chronic conditions) reported higher percentages of living in poverty, receiving government assistance, having less than a high-school education, being unemployed, and having no health insurance.

When looked at together, 6.4% of individuals reported AMI and chronic conditions, 2.2% reported AMI and substance abuse/dependence, 1.5% reported substance abuse/dependence and chronic medical conditions, and 1.2% -- equivalent to 2.2 million people -- reported all three conditions.

The association between mental illness and substance abuse is also laid bare by the study: people with AMI were over three times more likely to report substance abuse/dependence, almost 1.5 times more likely to have a chronic medical condition, and 1.2 times more likely to live in poverty.

As Elizabeth Lee Reisinger Walker commented on the research last week: "Just over half of adults in the US have one or more chronic condition, mental disorder, or dependence on substances. These conditions commonly overlap with each other and with poverty, which contributes to poor health."

The pair conclude that improving the health of people with multimorbidities will involve increased access to and coordination between a variety of services. As they observe: "Collaborative care models are effective in treating mental illnesses in primary care and providing primary care in specialty mental health settings."

Walker concludes: "In order to promote overall health, it is important to consider all of a person's health conditions along with poverty and other social factors."

But what the future holds for the 50% of Americans suffering from multiple health challenges remains to be seen.
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161025092655.htm

 

Sleep loss tied to changes of the gut microbiota in humans

October 25, 2016
Science Daily/Uppsala University
Curtailing sleep alters the abundance of bacterial gut species that have previously been linked to compromised human metabolic health, results from a new clinical study suggests.
https://images.sciencedaily.com/2016/10/161025114118_1_540x360.jpg
Changes in the composition and diversity of the gut microbiota have been associated with diseases such as obesity and type-2 diabetes in humans. Now research suggests that interrupted sleep may have an impact on changes of the gut microbiota.
Credit: © tab62 / Fotolia

Changes in the composition and diversity of the gut microbiota have been associated with diseases such as obesity and type-2 diabetes in humans. These diseases have also been linked with chronic sleep loss. However, it is not known whether sleep loss alters the gut microbiota in humans. With this in mind, Christian Benedict, associate professor of neuroscience, and Jonathan Cedernaes, M.D., Ph.D, both from Uppsala University, collaborated with researchers from the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke. In their study, the researchers sought to investigate in nine healthy normal-weight male participants whether restricting sleep to about four hours per night for two consecutive days as compared with conditions of normal sleep (about 8 hours of sleep opportunity) may alter the gut microbiota in humans.

"Overall we did not find evidence that suggests that the diversity of the gut microbiota was altered by sleep restriction. This was somewhat expected given the short-term nature of the intervention and the relatively small sample size. In more specific analyses of groups of bacteria, we did however observe microbiota changes that parallel some of the microbiota changes observed when for instance obese subjects have been compared with normal-weight subjects in other studies, such as an increased ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes. Longer and larger clinical sleep interventions will be needed to investigate to what extent alterations of the gut microbiota may mediate negative health consequences attributed to sleep loss, such as weight gain and insulin resistance," says senior author Jonathan Cedernaes.

"We also found that participants were over 20 percent less sensitive to the effects of the hormone insulin following sleep loss. Insulin is a pancreatic hormone needed to bring down blood glucose levels. This decreased insulin sensitivity was however unrelated to alterations in gut microbiota following sleep loss. This suggests that changes in microbiota may not, at least in the short-term, represent a central mechanism through which one or several nights of curtailed sleep reduce insulin sensitivity in humans," says first author Christian Benedict.

"The gut microbiota is very rich and its functional role far from completely characterized. Future studies will hopefully be able to ascertain how the composition and functional role of the gut microbiota is able to modulate at the individual level how sensitive we humans are to negative metabolic, but also cognitive, effects of sleep loss," concludes senior author Jonathan Cedernaes.
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161025114118.htm

 

High resting heart rate and blood pressure linked to later mental health disorders

October 26, 2016
Science Daily/University of Helsinki
A high resting heart rate and blood pressure in youth predict an increased susceptibility for anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder later in life, reveals an extensive study.
https://images.sciencedaily.com/2016/10/161026132932_1_540x360.jpg
Many mental health disorders have been found to be associated with abnormalities in heart function and blood pressure.
Credit: © adam121 / Fotolia

The connections between resting heart rate, blood pressure and psychiatric disorders were studied using register data from more than one million Swedish men. The study was published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

Many mental health disorders have been found to be associated with abnormalities in heart function and blood pressure. Heart rate and blood pressure are regulated by the autonomic nervous system which controls the body's basic functions. There has previously been no comprehensive research on whether discrepancies in the function of the autonomic nervous system could precede the onset of psychiatric illnesses.

The research used heart rate and blood pressure measurements from conscripts for the Swedish army, linked with information from national patient registers. The results indicate that men whose resting heart rate was higher than 82 beats per minute during their youth were 69% more likely to later be diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder than men whose resting heart rate was lower than 62 bpm. The risk for schizophrenia increased by 21% and for anxiety disorders, 18%.

The study considered several factors that could contribute to the connection, such as BMI, socioeconomic status, ethnic background, cognitive ability as well as physical fitness measured through an exercise test. However, these factors did not fully account for the correlation between psychiatric disorders and heart rate or blood pressure. The average follow-up period was 32 years.

The study also shows that low resting heart rate was linked to an increased risk of substance abuse and convictions for violent crimes.

"These results are interesting, because they provide new information on the role of the autonomic nervous system in psychiatric disorders," explains University of Helsinki postdoctoral researcher Antti Latvala, who led the project.

Latvala points out that the mechanisms underlying this connection still require a great deal of further study.

"Our observations indicate that differences in physiological responses, such as stress reactions, are linked to the risk of mental disorders. It is also known that psychiatric illnesses are associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Our results open new opportunities for studying this connection as well," Latvala says.
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161026132932.htm

 

The transition from daylight saving time to standard time leads to depressions

October 27, 2016
Science Daily/Aarhus University
The number of people diagnosed with depression at psychiatric hospitals increases immediately after the transition from daylight saving time to standard time, concludes new research.
https://images.sciencedaily.com/2016/10/161027115706_1_540x360.jpg
The number of people who are diagnosed with depression at psychiatric hospitals in Denmark increases immediately after the transition from daylight saving time to standard time.
Credit: © sal / Fotolia

"The year has 16 months: November, December, January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, November, November, November," writes the Danish poet Henrik Nordbrandt in a disheartening comment on the month we are about to enter.

And Nordbrandt is not the only one suffering in November. A recently published study documents that the number of people who are diagnosed with depression at psychiatric hospitals in Denmark increases immediately after the transition from daylight saving time to standard time. More specifically, the number of depression diagnoses during the month after the transition from daylight saving time is approximately eight per cent higher than expected based on the development in the number of diagnoses up to the transition.

The study is based on analysis of 185,419 depression diagnoses registered in The Central Psychiatric Research Register between 1995 and 2012.

According to Associate Professor Søren D. Østergaard from Aarhus University Hospital in Risskov, which is part of The Department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University, the increase in depression rates is too pronounced to be coincidental.

Søren D. Østergaard is one of the five researchers behind the study, which is the result of a collaboration between departments of psychiatry and political science at the universities of Aarhus, Copenhagen and Stanford.

"We are relatively certain that it is the transition from daylight saving time to standard time that causes the increase in the number of depression diagnoses and not, for example, the change in the length of the day or bad weather. In fact, we take these phenomena into account in our analyses," says Søren D. Østergaard.

He also points out that even though the study is based on analysis of relatively severe depressions diagnosed at psychiatric hospitals, there is no reason to believe that the time transition only affects the propensity to develop more severe forms of depression.

"We expect that the entire spectrum of severity is affected by the transition from daylight saving time to standard time, and since depression is a highly prevalent illness, an increase of eight per cent corresponds to many cases," says Søren D. Østergaard.

The study does not identify the underlying mechanism triggering the marked increase, but the researchers point to some possible causes. In Denmark, the transition from daylight saving time to standard time 'moves' one hour of daylight from the afternoon between 5:00 pm -- 6:00 pm to the morning between 7:00 am -- 8:00 am.

"We probably benefit less from the daylight in the morning between seven and eight, because many of us are either in the shower, eating breakfast or sitting in a car or bus on the way to work or school. When we get home and have spare time in the afternoon, it is already dark," explains Søren D. Østergaard.

"Furthermore, the transition to standard time is likely to be associated with a negative psychological effect as it very clearly marks the coming of a period of long, dark and cold days," says Søren D. Østergaard.

Why are the results of the study important? The researcher from Aarhus University is not in doubt:

"Our results should give rise to increased awareness of depression in the weeks following the transition to standard time. This is especially true for people with a tendency towards depression -- as well as their relatives. Furthermore the healthcare professionals who diagnose and treat depression should also take our results into consideration," says Søren D. Østergaard.
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161027115706.htm

 

Live long and ... Facebook?

October 31, 2016
Science Daily/University of California, San Diego
Is social media good for you, or bad? Well, it's complicated. A study of 12 million Facebook users suggests that using Facebook is associated with living longer -- when it serves to maintain and enhance your real-world social ties.
https://images.sciencedaily.com/2016/10/161031165135_1_540x360.jpg
A UC San Diego study links online social interactions to longevity.
Credit: © Monkey Business / Fotolia

Oh and you can relax and stop watching how many "likes" you get: That doesn't seem to correlate at all.

The study -- which the researchers emphasize is an association study and cannot identify causation -- was led by University of California San Diego researchers William Hobbs and James Fowler, collaborating with colleagues at Facebook and Yale. It is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research confirms what scientists have known for a long time about the offline world: People who have stronger social networks live longer. And it documents for the first time that what happens online may matter also.

"Interacting online seems to be healthy when the online activity is moderate and complements interactions offline," said first author William Hobbs, who worked on the study as a UC San Diego doctoral student in political science and is now a postdoctoral fellow at Northeastern University. "It is only on the extreme end, spending a lot of time online with little evidence of being connected to people otherwise, that we see a negative association."

Senior author James Fowler, professor of political science in the UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences and of global public health in the UC San Diego School of Medicine, said, "Happily, for almost all Facebook users, what we found is balanced use and a lower risk of mortality."

The researchers matched California Facebook users with vital records from the California Department of Public Health. To preserve privacy, after being automatically matched on name and birthdate, the data was de-identified and aggregated. All analyses were performed on the aggregate data, and all data was observational.

The researchers studied counts of online activity over six months, comparing the activity of those still living to those who had died. All of those studied were born between 1945 and 1989, and all the comparisons were made between people of similar age and gender.

The first finding is that those who are on Facebook live longer than those who are not. In a given year, the average Facebook user is about 12 percent less likely to die than someone who doesn't use the site. But that's the researchers' crudest measure, they note, and may be due to social or economic differences between the user and non-user groups.

Among people who do use Facebook, the researchers looked at numbers of friends, numbers of photos and status updates, numbers of wall posts sent and messages sent, to see if people who were more active lived longer. In these comparisons, they controlled their analysis not only for age and gender but also relationship status, length of time on Facebook, and smartphone use (a proxy for income).

People with average or large social networks, in the top 50 to 30 percent, lived longer than those in the lowest 10 -- a finding consistent with classic studies of offline relationships and longevity.

Those on Facebook with highest levels of offline social integration -- as measured by posting more photos, which suggests face-to-face social activity -- have the greatest longevity. Online-only social interactions, like writing wall posts and messages, showed a nonlinear relationship: Moderate levels were associated with the lowest mortality.

Because the researchers were studying an online social network, they could also look at the direction of friendship requests. It was Facebook users who accepted the most friendships who lived the longest. There was no observable relationship for those who initiated the most. This finding was a little disappointing, the researchers note, because it suggests that public health interventions urging people to go out and try to make more friends may have no effect on health.

Does it also suggest that being "popular" makes you live longer? Maybe. According to both Hobbs and Fowler, it's hard to say which way that goes. It could be that individuals who are more likely to live longer are more attractive to others in the first place. That, as they say, needs more research.

"The association between longevity and social networks was identified by Lisa Berkman in 1979 and has been replicated hundreds of times since," said Fowler. "In fact, a recent meta-analysis suggests the connection may be very strong. Social relationships seem to be as predictive of lifespan as smoking, and more predictive than obesity and physical inactivity. We're adding to that conversation by showing that online relationships are associated with longevity, too."

The researchers would like to see their associational study, like Berkman's seminal one, inspire many follow-ups. They hope that subsequent research leads to a better understanding of what kinds of online social experiences are protective of health.

"What happens on Facebook and other social networks is very likely important," Fowler said. "But what we can't do at this time is give either individual or larger policy recommendations based on this first work."
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161031165135.htm

 

Getting into the flow: Sexual pleasure is a kind of trance Orgasm is all about rhythmic timing

November 1, 2016
Science Daily/Northwestern University
Many people have speculated on the evolutionary functions of the human orgasm, but the underlying mechanisms have remained mysterious. In a new article, researcher seeks to shed light on how orgasm works in the brain.

Adam Safron, a neuroscientist and Ph.D. candidate in the psychology department's Brain Behavior Cognition program in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern, reviewed related studies and literature over many years to come up with a model in which rhythmic sexual activity likely influences brain rhythms.

Safron describes how rhythmic stimulation can enhance neural oscillations at corresponding frequencies, somewhat like pushing someone on a swing. Through this process, called neural entrainment, if sexual stimulation is intense enough and goes on long enough, synchronized activity could spread throughout the brain.

This synchrony may produce such intensely focused attention that sexual activity outcompetes usual self-awareness for access to consciousness, so producing a state of sensory absorption and trance. This may be crucial for allowing for a sufficient intensity of experience to trigger the mechanisms of climax.

"Synchronization is important for signal propagation in the brain, because neurons are more likely to fire if they are stimulated multiple times within a narrow window of time," Safron said. "Otherwise, the signals decay as part of a general resetting mechanism, rather than sum together. This then caused me to hypothesize that rhythmic entrainment is the primary mechanism by which orgasmic thresholds are surpassed."

Safron said this research could be relevant for improving sexual functioning, encouraging people to focus more on the rhythmic aspects of sexuality.

"The idea that sexual experiences can be like trance states is in some ways ancient. Turns out this idea is supported by modern understandings of neuroscience," Safron said. "In theory, this could change the way people view their sexuality. Sex is a source of pleasurable sensations and emotional connection, but beyond that, it's actually an altered state of consciousness."

Safron found parallels between sexual climax and seizures as well as with music and dance -- something he wasn't expecting.

In both orgasm and reflex seizures, rhythmic inputs into high-bandwidth sensory channels resulted in an explosive process after certain stimulation thresholds were surpassed.

"And although obvious in retrospect, I wasn't expecting to find that sexual activity was so similar to music and dance, not just in the nature of the experiences, but also in that evolutionarily, rhythm-keeping ability may serve as a test of fitness for potential mates."

He said this is consistent with the fact that rhythmic song and dances are nearly universal parts of mating, going back hundreds of millions of years to our common ancestors with pre-vertebrate animals such as insects.

Safron's previous research has focused on the neural bases of sexual preferences. He said orgasm is related to this work because it is one of the most powerful rewards available, and therefore, may have an important role in shaping preferences.

"Before this paper, we knew what lit up in the brain when people had orgasms, and we knew a lot about the hormonal and neurochemical factors in non-human animals, but we didn't really know why sex and orgasm feel the way they do," Safron said. "This paper provides a level of mechanistic detail that was previously lacking."
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161101103448.htm

 

Diet can impact migraines

November 1, 2016
Science Daily/University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Eliminating that morning 'Cup of Joe,' consuming processed foods high in nitrites or monosodium glutamate (MSG) and enjoying too much alcohol are potential headache triggers for individuals battling migraines, suggests a new report.

There are two different approaches to preventing headaches with diet. The first approach would be an elimination diet that avoids foods and beverages known to trigger headaches. The second approach would be follow a comprehensive diet whose very composition may prevent headaches, explains Martin, co-director of the Headache and Facial Pain Center at UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute and an expert in the area of migraine. His conclusions and others for migraineurs come after performing an exhaustive literature review of more than 180 research studies on the subject of migraine and diet.

Martin's two-part review, "Diet and Headache" is available online in the scholarly publication Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain. It is co-authored by Brinder Vij, MD, associate professor in the UC Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine.

"One of the most important triggers for headache is the withdrawal of caffeine," says Martin, who also sees patients at UC Health. "Let's say you regularly pound down three or four cups of coffee every morning and you decide to skip your morning routine one day, you will likely have full-fledged caffeine withdrawal headache that day."

That said, too much coffee may also present a risk, no more than 400 milligrams daily -- one cup is 125 milligrams -- is probably the maximum for migraine patients, says Martin. "Large amounts of caffeine can bring on anxiety and depressive symptoms as well as headaches," he explains.

Another trigger for migraine is MSG, which is a flavor enhancer used in a variety of processed foods, including frozen or canned foods, soups, international foods, snack foods, salad dressing, seasoning salts, ketchup, barbecue sauce, and heavily in Chinese cooking, says Martin, also a UC Health physician.

"You eliminate it by eating fewer processed foods," explains Martin. "You eat more natural things such as fresh vegetables, fresh fruits and fresh meats. MSG is most provocative when consumed in liquids such as soups."

Nitrites are preservatives food in processed meats such as bacon, sausage, ham and lunch meat to preserve color and flavor. Martin says a diary study found that five percent of individuals with migraine were statistically more likely to have an attack on days when they consume nitrites. Use of nitrites in foods has declined with stronger government regulation though checking labels remains a good idea, he explains.

Alcohol is one of the most commonly reported dietary trigger factors for migraine and studies suggest vodka and red wines, especially those with highest histamine content are problematic, says Martin.

There is a lot of interest in gluten-free diets, but they are only helpful in lessening headaches if the individuals suffer from celiac disease, which can be established by a positive blood test or intestinal biopsy, he adds.

There have been three comprehensive diets whose very composition may prevent headaches such as low fat and low carbohydrate diets as well as those that increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids and decrease the amount of omega-6 fatty acids, according to Martin.

Vij, who is also associate director of the Headache and Facial Pain Center at the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute, says low fat diets restrict the amount of fat in the diet to less than 20 percent of your daily energy requirements.

"The beauty of these diets is that they not only reduce headaches, but may produce weight loss and prevent heart disease," says Vij ,a UC Health physician.

Low carbohydrate diets such as ketogenic diets can reduce headache frequency, but it's not something to consider without strict physician supervision. The diet limits carbohydrates more than the well-known Atkins diet, Vij explains.

One of the most promising diets for those with more frequent attacks of migraine is one that boosts your omega-3 fats while lessoning your omega-6 levels and that means tossing out polyunsaturated vegetable oils (corn, sunflower, safflower, canola and soy) in favor of flaxseed oil, says Martin. Foods to consume would include flaxseed, salmon, halibut, cod and scallops while those to avoid would be peanuts and cashews.

"Persons with headache and migraine have more dietary options than ever. Ultimately a healthy headache diet excludes processed foods, minimizes caffeine and includes a lot of fruits, vegetables, fish and lean meats," Martin says. He adds, "After all, you are what you eat."
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161101103541.htm

 

Sunshine matters a lot to mental health; temperature, pollution, rain not so much Psychologist, physicist and statistician collaborate on unique study

November 3, 2016
Science Daily/Brigham Young University
Sunshine matters. A lot. The idea isn't exactly new, but according to a recent study, when it comes to your mental and emotional health, the amount of time between sunrise and sunset is the weather variable that matters most.

Your day might be filled with irritatingly hot temperatures, thick air pollution and maybe even pockets of rainclouds, but that won't necessarily get you down. If you're able to soak up enough sun, your level of emotional distress should remain stable. Take away sun time, though, and your distress can spike. This applies to the clinical population at large, not just those diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

"That's one of the surprising pieces of our research," said Mark Beecher, clinical professor and licensed psychologist in BYU Counseling and Psychological Services. "On a rainy day, or a more polluted day, people assume that they'd have more distress. But we didn't see that. We looked at solar irradiance, or the amount of sunlight that actually hits the ground. We tried to take into account cloudy days, rainy days, pollution . . . but they washed out. The one thing that was really significant was the amount of time between sunrise and sunset."Therapists should be aware that winter months will be a time of high demand for their services. With fewer sun time hours, clients will be particularly vulnerable to emotional distress. Preventative measures should be implemented on a case-by-case basis.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, started with a casual conversation that piqued Beecher's professional curiosity.

"Mark and I have been friends and neighbors for years, and we often take the bus together," said Lawrence Rees, a physics professor at BYU. "And of course you often talk about mundane things, like how are classes going? How has the semester been? How 'bout this weather? So one day it was kind of stormy, and I asked Mark if he sees more clients on these days. He said he's not sure, it's kind of an open question. It's hard to get accurate data."

A lightbulb went off in Rees' head. As a physics professor, Rees had access to weather data in the Provo area. As a psychologist, Beecher had access to emotional health data for clients living in Provo.

"We realized that we had access to a nice set of data that not a lot of people have access to," Beecher said. "So Rees said, 'Well, I've got weather data,' and I'm like, 'I've got clinical data. Let's combine the pair!' Wonder Twin powers activate, you know?"

The duo then brought in BYU statistics professor Dennis Eggett, who developed the plan for analyzing the data and performed all of the statistical analyses on the project.

Several studies have attempted to look at the weather's effect on mood with mixed results. Beecher cited four reasons why this study is an improvement on previous research:

•    The study analyzed several meteorological variables such as wind chill, rainfall, solar irradiance, wind speed, temperature and more.
•    The weather data could be analyzed down to the minute in the exact area where the clients lived.
•    The study focused on a clinical population instead of a general population.
•    The study used a mental health treatment outcome measure to examine several aspects of psychological distress, rather than relying on suicide attempts or online diaries.
•    The weather data came from BYU's Physics and Astronomy Weather Station, and the pollution data came from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Mental and emotional health data came from BYU's Counseling and Psychological Services Center.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161103141718.htm

 

 

Mismatched light and heat levels can disrupt body clock

November 8, 2016
Science Daily/University College London
Body clock function can break down when light and temperature levels throughout the day are out of sync, finds new research in fruit flies.

The study, published in Cell Reports, examined the activity levels of flies when they were exposed to light and heat at different times. The 'natural' cycle involved 12 hours of light and warmth followed by 12 hour of darkness and cold. The light and temperature cycles were then varied so that the light cycle ran between two and 10 hours behind the temperature cycle in each experiment.

When the time lag was small the effect on the body clock was relatively low, following an average of the light and temperature readings. When the time lag was large, temperature was ignored and the body clock was set by light. A moderate time lag of around six hours, however, caused the clock function to break down, with major disruptions to behaviour and clock-controlled molecular signals.

"The body clock is a naturally evolved entity so it functions best within naturally-occurring conditions," explains lead author Ross Harper (UCL CoMPLEX). "Changes in sunlight cause changes in temperature, and both are used to sense time. The time lag between light and temperature naturally varies, so the clock can compute an average time for smaller changes. For very large differences, such as a heat spike at midnight, the system ignores temperature as it is no longer a reliable indicator of 'daytime'. In between these lies a zone of confusion, where the clock can't combine the cues anymore but can't yet ignore them either. As mammals, including humans, are subject to similar evolutionary constraints, it is likely that similar systems apply to our clocks."

In the natural cycle, flies became increasingly active throughout the 12 hours of daylight with a peak in the evening just before light and temperature levels dropped. However, when there was a six-hour time lag between temperature and light, the flies were only active in the six-hour window when it was both cold and light. There were no peaks in activity, simply a plateau of moderate activity.

"Light is a well-known driver of the body clock, but until recently other factors including temperature have been overlooked," says co-senior author Professor Joerg T Albert (UCL Ear institute). "Recent work has shown that the daily body temperature rhythm is important for setting the human body clock, and our study suggests that the difference between light and temperature may also have a role to play. Artificial exposure to light sources and irregular sleep/wake patterns such as shift work shoulder a lot of the blame for disrupting the body clock, but artificial temperature controls like air conditioning and central heating perhaps also have an influence."

One complication with studying temperature in humans and other mammals is that our bodies regulate temperature internally, whereas an insect's body temperature depends solely on the outside temperature. It is not currently clear how internal and external temperatures relate to each other and the body clock, so further research is needed to better define their relative contributions in humans.

"Modern life involves artificial control of many aspects of our environment, but more natural conditions are likely to benefit our body clocks," explains co-senior author Professor Ralf Stanewsky (UCL Cell & Developmental Biology). "There are simple ways to mimic more natural conditions, such as having colder bedroom temperatures and getting as much light in the morning as possible. People with difficulties should avoid coffee and energy drinks where possible, drink less alcohol, avoid eating or exercising late at night and try to keep regular bedtime hours. The aim should be to have a good night's sleep and naturally wake up 'on time' in the morning without an alarm clock. The body clock is important, and disruption can cause not only sleeping problems but also certain psychiatric and cognitive disorders."
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161108124021.htm

 

Shorter sleep linked to sugar-sweetened drink consumption Treating sleep deprivation could potentially help reduce sugar intake

November 9, 2016
Science Daily/University of California - San Francisco
Treating sleep deprivation could potentially help reduce sugar intake, a new study suggests. People who sleep five or fewer hours a night are likely to also drink significantly more sugary caffeinated drinks, such as sodas and energy drinks, researchers found.

The authors emphasize that it's not yet clear whether drinking sugar-sweetened beverages causes people to sleep less, or whether sleep deprivation makes people seek out more sugar and caffeine to stay awake, though previous research suggests both could be true.

"We think there may be a positive feedback loop where sugary drinks and sleep loss reinforce one another, making it harder for people to eliminate their unhealthy sugar habit," said lead author Aric A. Prather, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at UCSF. "This data suggests that improving people's sleep could potentially help them break out of the cycle and cut down on their sugar intake, which we know to be linked to metabolic disease."

The study was published online -- November 9, 2016 -- will be included in the December 2016 issue of Sleep Health.

A growing body of research has linked sugary beverage consumption to metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions including high blood sugar and excess body fat, which can lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes. Lack of sleep is also associated with a higher risk for metabolic disease. Recently, several studies have linked the two factors in school-age children, showing that children who get less sleep are more likely to drink soda and other sugary beverages during the day, said Prather, who is also associate director of the UCSF Center for Health and Community.

To understand whether this is a more general pattern in the adult population, Prather and his team analyzed the 2005-2012 records of 18,779 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES), an ongoing study of dietary habits and health status in a nationally representative sample of US adults administered by the National Center for Health Statistics. The study includes participants' reports of how much sleep they usually got during the work week, as well as their total consumption of various beverages, including caffeinated and non-caffeinated sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juice, drinks with artificial sweeteners, and plain coffee, tea and water.

After controlling for a host of sociodemographic factors and health variables that could potentially impact sugary beverage consumption and sleep, the researchers found that people who regularly slept five or fewer hours per night also drank 21 percent more caffeinated sugar-sweetened beverages -- including both sodas and non-carbonated energy drinks -- than those who slept seven to eight hours a night. People who slept six hours per night regularly consumed 11 percent more caffeinated sugar-sweetened beverages. On the other hand, the team found no association between sleep duration and consumption of juice, tea or diet drinks.

Prather noted that previous research has strongly indicated that sleep deprivation increases hunger, particularly hunger for sugary and fatty foods.

"Short sleepers may seek out caffeinated sugar-sweetened beverages to increase alertness and stave off daytime sleepiness," he said. "However, it's not clear whether drinking such beverages affects sleep patterns, or if people who don't sleep much are more driven to consume them. Unfortunately, the data in the current study do not allow us to draw any conclusions about cause and effect."

Additionally, said Prather, sleep duration figures in the study were based on self-reporting, which might not accurately reflect the participants' true sleep patterns. "It will be important to have additional studies with more objective measures of sleep such as EEG recordings or wearable sleep monitors," he said. "We also need long-term prospective studies to better understand how sleep and sugary beverage consumption affect one another over time."

Whatever the relationship between sugar and sleep, said Prather, the study may point to a new way to address the problem of excess sugar consumption.

"Sleeping too little and drinking too many sugary drinks have both been linked to negative metabolic health outcomes, including obesity," said Prather. "Given the likely two-way relationship between sugary drinks and short sleep, enhancing the duration and quality of sleep could be a useful new intervention for improving the health and well-being of people who drink a lot of sugary beverages."
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161109112553.htm

 

Role of spleen in prolonged anxiety after stress

November 13, 2016
Science Daily/Ohio State University
Scientists are uncovering clues to what might be unfolding in the relationship between the brain and immune system in those who suffer from long-term repercussions of stress. New research details those connections, specifically that an abundance of white blood cells in the spleen could be sending messages to the brain that result in behavioral changes long after mice experience repeated stress.

New research details those connections, specifically that an abundance of white blood cells in the spleen could be sending messages to the brain that result in behavioral changes long after mice experience repeated stress.

"We found that immune cells in the spleen can contribute to chronic anxiety following psychological stress," said Daniel McKim, a graduate student at The Ohio State University and the lead author of the study.

"Our findings emphasize the possibility that the immune system represents a novel therapeutic target for the treatment of mental health conditions."

The research was part of a series of related studies presented Nov. 13 in San Diego at Neuroscience 2016, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

McKim's co-authors and advisers, John Sheridan and Jonathan Godbout, are working toward explaining the complicated interplay between immunity and stress in animals that have experienced "repeated social defeat" in an effort to eventually improve the well-being of people who experience chronic psychological stress. Sheridan is associate director of Ohio State's Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research and a professor of biosciences. Godbout is an associate professor of neuroscience.

In this study, the trio of scientists determined that the immune cell changes persisted for almost a month after the mice experienced the stress.

"Stress appears to prompt the release of stem cells from the bone marrow to the spleen, where they develop into white blood cells, or monocytes, and expand over time," Godbout said.

"Then the spleen becomes a reservoir of inflammatory cells."

Sheridan said the spleen is now understood to be integral to the sensitization that happens after prolonged stress in mice, leading to anxiety and other cognitive problems down the road.

"It's like a stress memory," Godbout said.

In their previous work, Ohio State researchers have documented an increased prevalence of long-term anxiety and depression in mice exposed to chronic stress, a model that has been compared to post-traumatic stress disorder in people.

"Maybe anxiety is a good thing for survival -- it's beneficial evolutionarily -- but the issue becomes what happens when that system is put into overdrive. That's when it gets problematic," Godbout said.

Added Sheridan, "We're beginning to piece together more details about the bi-directional communication between the brain and the body and the body and the brain."
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161113154748.htm

 

Member Login
Welcome, (First Name)!

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