Adolescence/Teens 13

Impact of poverty on children's brain activity

April 2, 2019

Science Daily/University of East Anglia

New research reveals the impact of poverty on children's brain activity. Researchers studied the brain function of children aged between four months and four years in rural India, and compared their results with children from families in Midwest America. They found that children in India from lower-income backgrounds, where mothers also had a low level of education, had weaker brain activity and were more likely to be distracted.

 

Children born into poverty show key differences in early brain function -- according to new research from the University of East Anglia.

 

Researchers studied the brain function of children aged between four months and four years in rural India.

 

They found that children from lower-income backgrounds, where mothers also had a low level of education, had weaker brain activity and were more likely to be distracted.

 

Lead researcher Prof John Spencer, from UEA's School of Psychology, said: "Each year, 250 million children in low and middle income countries fail to reach their developmental potential.

 

"There is therefore a growing need to understand the global impact of poverty on early brain and behavioural development.

 

"Previous work has shown that poverty and early adversities significantly impact brain development, contributing to a vicious cycle of poverty. But few studies have looked at brain function early in development.

 

"We wanted to find out more about the functional brain development of children born into poorer backgrounds -- to see why many do not reach their full potential. This work is the first step in intervention efforts designed to boost early brain health before adversity can take hold."

 

The team, which included researchers from the University of Stirling, carried out their study in Uttar Pradesh, which is the most highly populated region in India.

 

Using a portable 'functional near infrared spectroscopy' (fNIRS) device, they measured the brain activity of 42 children aged between four months and four years in rural settings.

 

fNIRS systems shine near-infrared light into cortical tissue via sources placed on the head via a special cap, linked to a computer.

 

They investigated the children's 'visual working memory' -- or how well they are able to store visual information and detect changes in the visual environment when they occur.

 

"We use our visual working memory around 10,000 times a day. Children begin to develop this skill in early infancy and it gradually improves through childhood and adolescence. We know that it is an excellent marker of early cognitive development," said Prof Spencer.

 

The study was conducted in partnership with the Community Empowerment Lab based in Lucknow, India. Participants were recruited from villages around Shivgarh in Uttar Pradesh.

 

They took part in a visual test involving blinking displays of coloured squares. The goal of the test was to see if children could remember the colours well enough to detect that there was always a colour change on one side of the display, while the colours on the other side always stayed the same.

 

Factors such as parental education, income, caste, religion, the number children in the family, and economic status were taken into account.

 

The results were compared with children from families in Midwest America.

 

The research team found that the children in India from families with low maternal education and income showed weaker brain activity and poorer distractor suppression in the left frontal cortex area of the brain that is involved in working memory.

 

The study also demonstrates that portable neuroimaging technologies can be used in rural parts of the developing world, bringing innovative technologies to places most in need of early assessment tools.

 

"Although the impact of adversity on brain development can trap children in an intergenerational cycle of poverty, the massive potential for brain plasticity is also a source of hope.

 

"By partnering with families in the local community and bringing innovative technologies to the field, we are hoping that together we can break this cycle of poverty in future work."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190402113032.htm

Parental support linked to how well millennials transition to college life

March 26, 2019

Science Daily/Taylor & Francis Group

Researchers show that how well parents or guardians support millennials' psychological needs prior to their transition to college is an important predictor of their psychological well-being as they adapt to college life.

 

A new study published in The Journal of Social Psychology has assessed the role of parental relationships in mitigating millennials' worry prior to college transition by meeting their basic psychological needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness. The research discovered that millennials who perceive their parental relationships as supportive of their psychological needs are less likely to worry and adjust better to the transition to college, whereas parenting that feels over involved and controlling predicts less need satisfaction, higher levels of worry and poor psychological well-being.

 

"Millennial college students are experiencing poorer psychological health than any other previous generation," explained Mr Nathaniel Greene from the University of Missouri, who led the study.

 

"An early indication of student's well-being is their initial worry about college," he continued, "but understanding what factors might mitigate worry prior to millennials' transition into college is limited in current research."

 

Specifically, the researchers focused on whether worry, including guilt over academically succeeding family members, could be moderated through the student's parental relationship.

 

"Millennials have a uniquely close and communicative relationship with their parents," explained Dr Carrie Veronica Smith, who contributed to the study, "so we used the well-established 'Self-Determination Theory' to test if worry would be lower for students who perceive their parental relationships meet their three basic psychological needs: the need to be in control of one's actions (autonomy), the need to feel capable and effective (competence) and the need to feel close and connected to others (relatedness)," she continued.

 

355 students were surveyed during their two-day orientation visits to a public university in the southeast United States in the summer before their freshman year. Measurements of the participants' demographics, family achievement guilt, basic need satisfaction in the parental relationship, parental bonding and student worry were collected, and the data was subjected to statistical analyses to determine if higher levels of need satisfaction in the parental relationship were related to lower levels of worry and achievement guilt and if these outcomes would differ for first- and continuing-generation students.

 

Millennials who felt that their parents support their psychological needs reported less worry about their transition to college and lower family achievement guilt. But of the three basic psychological needs, autonomy was the most significant predictor of worry, suggesting that millennials' need to feel in control of their actions may be the most important need in combatting concerns about college. Meanwhile, millennials who felt their parents were over involved and controlling reported less need satisfaction and higher levels of worry and achievement guilt.

 

"We were surprised to see these results were true for both first- and continuing-generation students because past research has shown first-generation students likely suffer more from family achievement guilt and feelings of disconnection," explained Mr Greene. "But our results nicely highlight the universal importance of these basic needs," he continued.

 

Overall, the study identifies the importance of psychological need satisfaction in the parental relationship in offsetting millennials' worries about college and relating to their psychological well-being.

 

"Parents, peers and educators should support millennial students' basic needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness both before and after the transition to college, as they are essential to their overall psychological health" advised Mr Greene.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190326202216.htm

Families and schools may play key roles in promoting adolescent self-confidence

March 13, 2019

Science Daily/Penn State

Self-confidence is critical for teens as they prepare for the challenges of adulthood, and both families and schools may together play a vital role in boosting adolescents' confidence even in the face of difficulties with family, according to researchers.

 

The researchers examined how a variety of factors affected adolescents' self-efficacy -- a person's belief that they have the ability to overcome challenges and be successful, similar to self-confidence.

 

They found that adolescents who frequently witnessed their parents arguing or engaging in other forms of conflict experienced lower self-efficacy later on. But, success in school and support from peers were able to help compensate for family problems, and even boost self-efficacy higher than those losses.

 

Devin McCauley, a graduate student in Human Development and Family Studies, said the findings suggest that many factors can contribute to the development of a teen's confidence, and that schools may be an untapped resource for helping adolescents develop self-efficacy.

 

"Oftentimes, adolescents are in school all day where they're focusing on academics," McCauley said. "But this study suggests that we should continue thinking about schools in a developmental context, where we look beyond academics and at new ways to help improve other aspects of adolescent wellbeing."

 

Greg Fosco, associate professor of human development and family studies, added that the study -- recently published in the Journal of Adolescence -- is also a good reminder for parents about the importance of healthy co-parenting relationships.

 

"The healthier you can make the relationship with your partner, the better that is for your child," Fosco said. "Parents can get really focused on how they parent, and that's important, but their relationship with one another is an important source of strength for the family and for their children's development. Investing in a healthy couple relationship is going to promote a positive outcome for the child."

 

McCauley was inspired by his time as a school teacher to explore whether schools could help compensate for family-related losses in self-efficacy. He added that while self-efficacy is important at any age, it may be particularly important during adolescence.

 

"One of the goals of adolescence is to start to gain independence, form new social groups and eventually, down the line, start a family of their own," McCauley said. "If, as you encounter challenges in your life, your constant thought is 'I can't do this,' that can be stifling. But, if you have high self-efficacy, you're going to continue to pursue your goals, find more success, and that's going to reinforce and build on itself."

 

For the study, McCauley and the other researchers used data from 768 families, which included two-parent households with at least one adolescent in the home. Data was collected twice when the adolescents were in sixth grade and once when they were in seventh grade.

 

At each time point, adolescents reported data on conflict they witnessed between their parents, how threatened they felt by that conflict, feelings of self-efficacy, their school success and how much they felt supported by their peers.

 

After analyzing the data, the researchers found that higher levels of conflict between parents was linked to adolescents' feeling that their sense of security in the family was threatened. And this lower sense of security in turn was linked to diminished self-efficacy. But, greater success in school as well as feeling supported by peers contributed to higher levels of self-efficacy, enough to compensate for the losses stemming from teens' exposure to conflict between parents.

 

"If these adolescents are experiencing a lot of conflict at home, that can be offset to an extent by feeling successful in school or in their peer relationships," Fosco said. "Even though interparental conflict at home is a risk factor for undermining their self-efficacy, these positive experiences out of the home will help offset damages to their belief in themselves, in their ability to overcome challenges.

 

McCauley said the study suggests there are multiple ways to help promote self-efficacy in adolescents, and that one set of solutions may not fit all teens.

 

"This gives us different avenues to work within when it comes to intervention or prevention strategies," McCauley said. "If it's difficult to work with the family, if it's hard to get them to come to programs or sessions, we can help teens be successful in other areas of their life. Adolescents are often in school day in and day out for nine months out of the year, and we can build this into how the school functions."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190313114739.htm

Taking arts classes leads to better academic performance

March 12, 2019

Science Daily/George Mason University

A new study found a link between arts elective courses in music, dance, visual art and drama, and better grades in middle school. The study followed a large and diverse sample of preschool children up until they completed sixth, seventh and eighth grade.

 

The study, led by Adam Winsler, professor of applied developmental psychology, followed a large and diverse sample of preschool children up until they completed sixth, seventh and eighth grade.

 

The sample included a group of 31,331 students, of whom 61 percent were Latino, 31 percent were black, 55 percent were English Language Learners and 81 percent received free or reduced lunch.

 

Researchers assessed school readiness during pre-K and used archival public-school data during middle school.

 

"There were two questions this study was designed to answer," said Winsler. "One is, how are kids who take middle school arts different from those who don't, and we found that they were very different, they were more advantaged even seven years earlier."

 

Winsler said that students who are exposed to the arts in middle school tend to come from higher income families with both parents in the household. The students also tended to do better earlier in elementary school and had stronger cognitive language and social skills at age 4.

 

"The second question we were trying to answer is, once you statistically control for all of those ways that the arts takers are different from the non-arts takers, is the taking of those arts in middle school associated with later academic outcomes" Winsler said.

 

The answer, said Winsler, is yes.

 

Winsler said his research found that, when all variables are accounted for, enrolling in the arts seems to be linked to better academic performance, in the same year and later years.

 

The benefits of the arts is not a new subject of discussion, but Winsler said that as arts programs are getting cut in schools, it's important to back these claims with strong data and, until now, studies have been mostly simple correlational studies that can't provide evidence that the arts actually cause the better academic outcomes.

 

"Although it is widely thought that the arts have all kinds of positive benefits for kids, the research on which that is based has been fairly weak in the past," Winsler said.

 

Winsler's study, he added, while still correlational, is large, longitudinal and controls well for pre-existing differences between arts and non-arts students.

 

The research center will also soon publish research that will take a closer look at specific art forms such as music, dance and visual arts. With additional funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, Winsler said they will also follow up with the students through high school.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190312123720.htm

Mindfulness found to improve mental health of students

March 11, 2019

Science Daily/University of Bristol

Mental health among university students could be improved by introducing mindfulness training. These are the findings from the first UK study to measure the efficacy of mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT) on students.

 

Recent evidence suggests that university students are more likely to develop mental health problems when compared with the general population. The University of Bristol-led study aimed to establish whether mindfulness could be effective at improving mental health and wellbeing in medical students who are considered more at risk of developing a stress-related illness.

 

Researchers recruited 57 medical students, who had been referred to a mindfulness group either by their GP or student advisor, to take part in an eight-week mindfulness programme.

 

Students were required to attend the training for two hours each week and commit to 30-minute daily home practice in between sessions. The training, which took place between Autumn 2011 and Spring 2015, taught participants how the mind works, how stress impacts one's life, an awareness of stress triggers and signs of stress symptoms, coping techniques, meditation practice, and the importance of self-care.

 

At the end of each programme students completed a survey that included a free text response. The researchers also conducted six qualitative interviews lasting between 60 and 90 minutes.

 

The students reported mindfulness training went further than learning a set of tools for coping with emotional difficulty. Students described improved empathy and communication skills when with patients through their newly learnt ability to notice their own thoughts and feelings. Students reported an improved ability to manage their workload better as well as a new ability to notice automatic judgmental thinking (such as not being good enough) without identifying with these thoughts. Students described how mindfulness had helped enhance their relationship to learning by using the mindfulness practices to refresh and regain concentration during long days of study as well as using the mindfulness practices to steady themselves during stressful situations in clinic or during exams.

 

The researchers concluded that more research is needed but these initial findings suggest that mindfulness training had helped students at Bristol reduce anxiety, excessive worry, negative thought patterns and improve resiliency to stress as well as improve emotional wellbeing and professional development.

 

Dr Alice Malpass, Research Fellow in the Bristol Medical School: Population Health Sciences (PHS) and co-author, said: "At Bristol, we are continuing to increase efforts to find solutions to improve mental health among the student population. Out aim is to find effective new ways of supporting students who may be suffering from stress and anxiety.

 

"This study has shown how mindfulness can help students who might be struggling, in particular medical students, find new ways of relating to the difficulties that arise in their clinical work, studying and wellbeing.

 

"We have developed a theoretical model of the medical student 'stress signature', mapping how mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) can break the cycle of specific vulnerability through the development of new coping strategies."

 

In Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA, mindfulness training is part of the medical curriculum but has yet to be implemented in the UK. Policy recommendations from the General Medical Council (GMC), the body responsible for improving medical education in the UK, recommend the use of mindfulness training to increase wellbeing and resilience to stress.

 

The researchers suggest a UK wide survey should be carried out to find out how other medical schools in the UK are implementing GMC mindfulness training guidelines and how this compares to what medical schools are delivering in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190311125213.htm

Binge drinking in adolescence may increase risk for anxiety later in life

March 11, 2019

Science Daily/University of Illinois at Chicago

Researchers have found that adolescent binge drinking, even if discontinued, increases the risk for anxiety later in life due to abnormal epigenetic programming.

 

A growing body of evidence supports the idea that alcohol exposure early in life has lasting effects on the brain and increases the risk of psychological problems in adulthood. Now, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have found that adolescent binge drinking, even if discontinued, increases the risk for anxiety later in life due to abnormal epigenetic programming. The findings of the study, which was conducted in animals, was published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

 

"Binge drinking early in life modifies the brain and changes connectivity in the brain, especially in the amygdala, which is involved in emotional regulation and anxiety, in ways we don't totally understand yet," said Subhash Pandey, professor of psychiatry in the UIC College of Medicine, director of the UIC Center for Alcohol Research in Epigenetics and lead author of the study. "But what we do know is that epigenetic changes are lasting, and increase susceptibility to psychological issues later in life, even if drinking that took place early in life is stopped."

 

"Epigenetics" refers to chemical changes to DNA, RNA, or specific proteins associated with chromosomes that change the activity of genes without changing the genes themselves. Epigenetic alterations are required for the normal development of the brain, but they can be modified in response to environmental or even social factors, such as alcohol and stress. These kinds of epigenetic alterations have been linked to changes in behavior and disease.

 

Adolescent rats were exposed to ethanol (a type of alcohol) for two days on and two days off or to the same protocol using saline for 14 days. All rats underwent an assessment for anxiety.

 

Pandey and his colleagues exposed adolescent rats to a regimen designed to mimic binge drinking. Those rats exhibited anxious behavior later in life, even if the binge drinking regimen stopped in late adolescence and the rats were allowed to mature to adulthood without any further exposure to alcohol.

 

These rats also had lower levels of a protein called Arc in the amygdala. Arc is important for the normal development of synaptic connections in the brain. Rats with less Arc also had about 40 percent fewer neuronal connections in the amygdala compared with rats that weren't exposed to alcohol.

 

"We believe that the decrease in Arc levels is caused by epigenetic changes that alter the expression of Arc, and an enhancer RNA, which modifies the expression of Arc. These changes are caused by adolescent alcohol exposure," said Pandey.

 

"Exposure to alcohol causes epigenetic reprogramming to occur, leading to molecular changes in the amygdala, which are long-lasting, even in the absence of more alcohol," said Pandey, who is also a senior research career scientist at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center. "If the amygdala has deficits in its wiring or connectivity, and these modifications are long-lasting, the individual is at risk for psychological issues based on difficulties in regulating emotions, such as anxiety or depression and the development of alcohol use disorder later in life."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190311125156.htm

Young people at risk of addiction have differences in key brain region

March 4, 2019

Science Daily/University of Cambridge

Young adults at risk of developing problems with addiction show key differences in an important region of the brain, according to an international team led by researchers at the University of Cambridge.

 

The study adds further evidence to support the idea that an individual's biological makeup plays a significant role in whether or not they develop an addictive disorder.

 

Adolescence and young adulthood is an important time in a person's development. It is during this time that individuals begin to demonstrate behaviours that are associated with addiction and which suggest that they may be at risk.

 

One of these behaviours is impulsivity. Sometimes, we need to make quick decisions, for example in response to a danger or a threat. At other times, it is better to hesitate and decide only after careful deliberation. Impulsivity refers to where we respond and act prematurely, without considering the consequences of our actions. While most people occasionally act impulsively, people affected by disorders including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), substance and behavioural addictions, and mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, show much greater levels of impulsivity.

 

In a study published today in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, a team of researchers at Cambridge's Department of Psychiatry, in collaboration with a group at Aarhus University in Denmark, has shown a strong association between increased behavioural impulsivity in young adults and abnormalities in nerve cells in the putamen, a key brain region involved in addictive disorders.

 

As part of the study, 99 young adults aged 16 to 26 carried out a computer-based measure of impulsivity. The researchers also scanned the volunteers' brains using a sequence that is sensitive to myelin content. Myelin is a protein-rich sheath that coats the axis of a nerve cell, analogous to the plastic coating that surrounds electrical wiring, and is essential to fast nerve conduction in the brain and body.

 

The team found that those young adults who displayed higher measures of behavioural impulsivity also had lower levels of myelin in the putamen. This work builds on similar findings in rodent models of impulsivity from scientists at Cambridge and elsewhere.

 

"People who show heightened impulsivity are more likely to experience a number of mental health issues, including substance and behavioural addictions, eating disorders, and ADHD," says Dr Camilla Nord of the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, lead author on the study.

 

This suggests that impulsivity is an 'endophenotype', say the researchers; in other words, a set of behavioural and brain changes that increases people's general risk for developing a group of psychiatric and neurological disorders.

 

"We know that most mental health symptoms are not specific to particular disorders," says Dr Nord. "This work provides an important piece of the puzzle in establishing brain signatures that are general across a number of mental health disorders, rather than specific to any single one."

 

The putamen is a key brain hub in addiction, sending dopamine signals elsewhere in the brain, and helping mediate how impulsively we behave. "The significance of decreased myelination implies there are tiny microstructural changes in this part of the brain affecting its function, and thereby affecting impulsivity," says senior author Dr Valerie Voon, also from Cambridge.

 

"The degree of myelination alters the speed and efficiency of neuronal communication, meaning that if a population has decreased myelination only in one particular region, as we show, there is something highly local about any changes in neural speed and efficiency," add co-author Dr Seung-Goo Kim.

 

Although it is not possible to say definitely whether the decreased myelination causes individuals to behave impulsively, the fact that all participants were healthy and had not been diagnosed with addiction or any other psychiatric diagnosis suggests a more causal link than has been demonstrated in previous studies.

 

In future, the finding may help in predicting an individual's risk of developing a problem with addiction, say the researchers, but they caution that this would require further research and testing.

 

The research was funded by the Aarhus University Research Foundation, the Danish Ministry for Social Affairs and the Interior and the UK Medical Research Council. The work was also supported by NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190304105436.htm

When it comes to hearing words, it's a division of labor between our brain's two hemispheres

March 4, 2019

Science Daily/New York University

Scientists have uncovered a new 'division of labor' between our brain's two hemispheres in how we comprehend the words and other sounds we hear -- a finding that offers new insights into the processing of speech and points to ways to address auditory disorders.

 

"Our findings point to a new way to think about the division of labor between the right and left hemispheres," says Adeen Flinker, the study's lead author and an assistant professor in the Department of Neurology at NYU School of Medicine. "While both hemispheres perform overlapping roles when we listen, the left hemisphere gauges how sounds change in time -- for example when speaking at slower or faster rates -- while the right is more attuned to changes in frequency, resulting in alterations in pitch."

 

Clinical observations dating back to the 19th century have shown that damage to the left, but not right, hemisphere impairs language processing. While researchers have offered an array of hypotheses on the roles of the left and right hemispheres in speech, language, and other aspects of cognition, the neural mechanisms underlying cerebral asymmetries remain debated.

 

In the study, which appears in the journal Nature Human Behavior, the researchers sought to elucidate the mechanisms underlying the processing of speech, with the larger aim of furthering our understanding of basic mechanisms of speech analysis as well as enriching the diagnostic and treatment tools for language disorders.

 

To do so, they created new tools to manipulate recorded speech, then used these recordings in a set of five experiments spanning behavioral experiments and two types of brain recording. They used magnetoencephalography (MEG), which allows measurements of the tiny magnetic fields generated by brain activity, as well as electrocorticography (ECoG), recordings directly from within the brain in volunteer surgical patients.

 

"We hope this approach will provide a framework to highlight the similarities and differences between human and non-human processing of communication signals," adds Flinker. "Furthermore, the techniques we provide to the scientific community may help develop new training procedures for individuals suffering from damage to one hemisphere."

 

The study's other authors were Werner Doyle, an associate professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at NYU School of Medicine, Ashesh Mehta, an associate professor of neurosurgery at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, Orrin Devinsky, a professor in the Department of Neurology at NYU School of Medicine, and David Poeppel, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at NYU and director of the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt and the study's senior author.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190304182116.htm

No link found between MMR vaccine and autism, even among children with other risk factors for autism

March 4, 2019

Science Daily/American College of Physicians

A nationwide cohort study of all children born in Denmark to Danish-born mothers between 1999 through 2010 concluded that the mumps, measles, and rubella (MMR) vaccine does not increase the risk of autism, does not trigger autism in susceptible children, and is not associated with clustering of autism cases following vaccination.

 

The hypothesized link between measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism continues to cause concern and challenge vaccine uptake. Currently, there is a concerning increase in measles cases in Europe and the U.S., and the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 threats to global health.

 

Researchers from Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Denmark used a Danish population registry to evaluate whether the MMR vaccine increases the risk for autism in children, subgroups of children, or time periods after vaccination. Of the 657,461 children included in the analysis over a decade of follow-up, 6,517 were diagnosed with autism. Comparing MMR-vaccinated with MMR-unvaccinated children yielded a fully adjusted autism hazard ratio of 0.93. Similarly, no increased risk for autism after MMR vaccination was consistently observed in subgroups of children defined according to sibling history of autism, autism risk factors (based on a disease risk score) or other childhood vaccinations, or during specified time periods after vaccination.

 

According to the researchers, this study adds to previous studies through significant additional statistical power and addresses questions about susceptible subgroups and autism clustering.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190304182130.htm

Children develop PTSD when they ruminate over their trauma

March 26, 2019

Science Daily/University of East Anglia

A new study shows that children are more likely to suffer PTSD if they think their reaction to a traumatic event is not 'normal'. While most children recover well after a traumatic event, some go on to develop PTSD that may stay with them for months, years, or even into adulthood. The research reveals that children begin down this route when they have trouble processing their trauma and perceive their symptoms as a sign that something is seriously wrong.

 

While most children recover well after a traumatic event, some go on to develop PTSD that may stay with them for months, years, or even into adulthood.

 

A new study, published today, reveals that children begin down this route when they have trouble processing their trauma and perceive their symptoms as being a sign that something is seriously wrong.

 

Lead researcher Prof Richard Meiser-Stedman, from UEA's Norwich Medical School, said: "Symptoms of PTSD can be a common reaction to trauma in children and teenagers. These can include distressing symptoms like intrusive memories, nightmares and flashbacks. Health professionals steer away from diagnosing it in the first month after a trauma because, rather than being a disorder, it's a completely normal response.

 

"Many children who experience a severe traumatic stress response initially can go on to make a natural recovery without any professional support. But a minority go on to have persistent PTSD, which can carry on for much longer.

 

"We wanted to find out more about why some children have significant traumatic stress symptoms in the days and weeks after a trauma and while others do not, and importantly -- why some recover well without treatment, while others go on to experience more persistent problems."

 

The research team worked with over 200 children aged between eight and 17 whaumao had attended a hospital emergency department following a one-off traumatic incident. These included events such as car crashes, assaults, dog attacks and other medical emergencies.

 

These young people were interviewed and assessed for PTSD between two and four weeks following their trauma, and again after two months.

 

The research team split the children's reactions into three groups -- a 'resilient' group who did not develop clinically significant traumatic stress symptoms at either time point, a 'recovery' group who initially displayed symptoms but none at the two month follow up, and a 'persistent' group who had significant symptoms at both time points.

 

The team also examined whether social support and talking about the trauma with friends or family may be protective against persistent problems after two months. They also took into account factors including other life stressors and whether the child was experiencing on-going pain.

 

Dr Meiser-Stedman said: "We found that PTSD symptoms are fairly common early on -- for example between two and four weeks following a trauma. These initial reactions are driven by high levels of fear and confusion during the trauma.

 

"But the majority of children and young people recovered naturally without any intervention.

 

"Interestingly the severity of physical injuries did not predict PTSD, nor did other life stressors, the amount of social support they could rely on, or self-blame.

 

"The young people who didn't recover well, and who were heading down a chronic PTSD track two months after their trauma, were much more likely to be thinking negatively about their trauma and their reactions -- they were ruminating about what happened to them.

 

"They perceived their symptoms as being a sign that something was seriously and permanently wrong with them, they didn't trust other people as much, and they thought they couldn't cope.

 

"In many cases, more deliberate attempts to process the trauma -- for example, trying to think it through or talk it through with friends and family -- were actually associated with worse PTSD. The children who didn't recover well were those that reported spending a lot of time trying to make sense of their trauma. While some efforts to make sense of trauma might make sense, it seems that it is also possible for children to get 'stuck' and spend too long focusing on what happened and why.

 

"The young people who recovered well on the other hand seemed to be less bothered by their reactions, and paid them less attention."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190326081345.htm

Exposure to air pollution before and after birth may affect fundamental cognitive abilities

May 23, 2019

Science Daily/Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal)

A growing body of research suggests that exposure to air pollution in the earliest stages of life is associated with negative effects on cognitive abilities. A new study led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), a centre supported by "la Caixa," has provided new data: exposure to particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 μm (PM2.5) during pregnancy and the first years of life is associated with a reduction in fundamental cognitive abilities, such as working memory and executive attention.

 

The study, carried out as part of the BREATHE project, has been published in Environmental Health Perspectives. The objective was to build on the knowledge generated by earlier studies carried out by the same team, which found lower levels of cognitive development in children attending schools with higher levels of traffic-related air pollution.

 

The study included 2,221 children between 7 and 10 years of age attending schools in the city of Barcelona. The children's cognitive abilities were assessed using various computerized tests. Exposure to air pollution at home during pregnancy and throughout childhood was estimated with a mathematical model using real measurements.

 

The study found that greater PM2.5 exposure from pregnancy until age 7 years was associated with lower working memory scores on tests administered between the ages of 7 and 10 years. The results suggest that exposure to fine particulate matter throughout the study period had a cumulative effect, although the associations were stronger when the most recent years of exposure were taken into account. Working memory is a cognitive system responsible for temporarily holding information for subsequent manipulation. It plays a fundamental role in learning, reasoning, problem-solving and language comprehension.

 

Sex-stratified analysis showed that the relationship between PM2.5 exposure and diminished working memory was found only in boys. "As yet, we don't understand what causes these differences, but there are various hormonal and genetic mechanisms that could lead to girls having a better response to inflammatory processes triggered by fine particulate matter and being less susceptible to the toxicity of these particles," commented Ioar Rivas, ISGlobal researcher and lead author of the study.

 

The study also found that higher exposure to particulate matter was associated with a reduction in executive attention in both boys and girls. Executive attention is one of the three networks that make up a person's attention capacity. It is involved in high-level forms of attention, such as the detection and resolution of conflicts between options and responses, error detection, response inhibition, and the regulation of thoughts and feelings.

 

Whereas previous studies in the BREATHE project analysed exposure to air pollution at schools over the course of a year, this study assessed exposures at the participants' homes over a much longer time: from the prenatal period to 7 years of age.

 

"This study reinforces our previous findings and confirms that exposure to air pollution at the beginning of life and throughout childhood is a threat to neurodevelopment and an obstacle that prevents children from reaching their full potential," commented Jordi Sunyer, Childhood and Environment Programme Coordinator at ISGlobal and last author of the study.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190523104925.htm

Mind Boosting Benefits of Music Therapy

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.

 


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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

 

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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)

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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



The following provided by:
Mike Levitsky, Drumsandguitar.com

Choosing to play an instrument is the beginning of a journey. One that is exciting, but often filled with struggle and hard work. It will require you to take in new information and master new skills.

Listed in the link below are some of the many benefits of playing an instrument. When you feel yourself getting discouraged, remember to keep these benefits in mind.

Lessons & benefits of playing a musical instrument

Brief quote from About Mike:

Now I spend most of my time as a youth pastor. I run a youth worship band and lead our adult congregation in worship twice a month. I still teach private music lessons at my house and play the occasional gig. When I have time I post drum and guitar lessons on my youtube channel. Music is a part of everything I do, and I suspect it will be for a long, long time.


Short period of parental sexual contact prior to pregnancy increases offspring risk of schizophrenia

Study may help explain some of the excess risks for inflammatory diseases in first born children

April 23, 2019

Science Daily/The Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine

Children may be at a slightly increased risk of schizophrenia when their parents were in sexual contact for less than three years before conceiving them, according to research conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and published April 23 in the journal Schizophrenia Research.

 

Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People with schizophrenia may seem to have lost touch with reality and may suffer from hallucinations, delusions, disordered thinking, negative mood, and cognitive impairments. Research has shown that many different genes may increase the risk of schizophrenia and also that interactions between genes and aspects of the individual's environment, including exposure to viruses, malnutrition before birth, problems during birth, and/or psychosocial factors, are necessary for schizophrenia to develop.

 

Previous research has shown that preeclampsia, the most common pregnancy complication involving placental inflammation, is associated with developmental abnormalities in offspring that predispose them to a two- to four-fold increase in the risk for schizophrenia. Research has also shown that a lengthy period of prepregnancy vaginal exposure to the sperm of the offspring's father can overcome the maternal intolerance to paternal antigens that is a risk factor for preeclampsia.

 

"We hypothesized that if maternal immune intolerance to the father's sperm is a component pathway of risk for schizophrenia, then the couples' duration of prepregnancy sexual contact could be related to the offspring's risk for schizophrenia," said Dolores Malaspina, MD, MS, MPH, Professor of Psychiatry, Genetics and Genomic Sciences, and Neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and first author of the paper. "Our results conclude that offspring born to couples married for less than three years, across all paternal ages, harbor a small increased risk for schizophrenia, which was independent of parental psychiatric disorders and paternal age. We anticipate that this work will inspire many follow-up studies to examine this disease pathway."

 

A prior study conducted by Dr. Malaspina demonstrated an association between short durations of marriage and increased offspring risk for schizophrenia, with preeclampsia considered as the explanation. That study did not account for parental psychiatric illness or the father's age at marriage, both of which may be relevant to an inherited vulnerability for the disease.

 

In this new study, researchers analyzed offspring risk for schizophrenia and separated the inter-related measures of paternal age, father's age at marriage, parental psychiatric diagnoses, and duration of marriage. Specifically, the research team conducted analyses of more than 90,000 offspring from the prospective, population-based Jerusalem Perinatal Cohort Schizophrenia Study (JPSS), a birth cohort study that recorded all births in a defined area of Jerusalem from 1964 to 1976. They found that offspring born to parents married less than two years, equivalent to about one year of prepregnancy sexual contact, had a 50 percent increase in risk for schizophrenia, and those of marriages lasting two to four years had a 30 percent increase in risk. Conversely, there were protective effects of longer marriage duration against risk, with each five years predicting a 14 percent reduction in risk for schizophrenia.

 

While duration of marriage is an insufficient proxy for the total length of sexual cohabitation by a couple in almost all developed countries, 97 percent of the offspring in the 1964-1976 JPSS group were born to married couples. Then, as now, Israel had among the lowest out-of-wedlock births of any country and so duration of marriage at the time of each research subject's birth is reasonably considered to be the lower limit on the length of time that the mother was vaginally exposed to the sperm of the offspring's father.

 

"Our findings, which coincide with obstetric literature that shows a shorter duration of parental sexual contact before conception increases the pregnancy risk for preeclampsia, is timely in light of recent discovery that some genes implicated in schizophrenia are placental genes with differential expression from prenatal adversity like preeclampsia and hypertension," says Dr. Malaspina. "The data suggests that prenatal immune activation from preeclampsia could produce lasting inflammatory vulnerability for the mother and fetus, increasing the susceptibility for psychiatric and metabolic conditions."

 

Dr. Malaspina's research team is currently being examining duration of marriage as a risk factor for other psychiatric disorders and for metabolic disorders.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190423133653.htm

High use of electronic cigarettes seen in 8th-9th graders in Oregon

Rates of e-cigarette use among Oregon 8th & 9th graders is higher than national samples, and that e-cigarette use is closely linked with marijuana and other tobacco use

August 14, 2017

Science Daily/Oregon Research Institute

A study at Oregon Research Institute (ORI) shows that rates of electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use among Oregon 8th and 9th graders is higher than seen in national samples, and that e-cigarette use is closely linked with use of marijuana and other tobacco products. Led by ORI scientist Erika Westling, Ph.D., study investigators examined e-cigarette prevalence rates in 8th graders and tracked early usage patterns from 8th grade through 9th grade, the first year of high school. Westling and her team also examined gender, ethnicity, and the use of other substances. Study results were recently published in the June 2017 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

 

The study showed that adolescents are using e-cigarettes at high rates, and many are using e-cigarettes before trying regular cigarettes or chewing tobacco. In addition, e-cigarette users were more likely to have used and be using other substances, with marijuana being the most common. At the beginning of the study, 27.7% of 8th grade students reported some use of e-cigarettes and 16.8% were current users. By the spring of 9th grade, 31.4% of students had used e-cigarettes and 17.4% were current users.

 

"We found that e-cigarettes were being used at much higher rates than conventional cigarettes," noted Westling, "and about 5% of students were using e-cigarettes daily in the 9th grade, which suggests addiction to nicotine via e-cigarettes in these young adolescents."

 

The research team surveyed 1100 Oregon students from seven school districts once at the end of 8th grade and three times across 9th grade. Results indicated there were no significant gender or ethnicity differences in prevalence of use in 8th grade or in accelerated usage rates through 9th grade. Males, females, Hispanics, and non-Hispanics were at equal risk for trying and escalating use of e-cigarettes over time. This reveals the broad appeal, access, and popularity of e-cigarettes to this population, and indicates that anti-e-cigarette marketing strategies should target all of these groups.

 

"Our data was collected prior to regulation of e-cigarettes by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There are currently no limits on advertising, flavorings, or e-liquid content, and e-cigarettes are being heavily marketed to youth," said Westling. "Given the high rates of use and previous marketing efforts, youth access to and willingness to use c-cigarettes may not be easily changed."

 

The FDA finalized the "deeming" rule effective August 8, 2016 to regulate new tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, which will likely result in product standards and prevent misleading claims about the relative risk of tobacco products in the future. However, these regulations will not be in effect for several more years. Currently, the majority of adolescents perceive e-cigarettes as having minimal risks to health or addiction. Only a quarter of high school students know that e-cigarettes typically contain nicotine. Young adolescents are especially vulnerable to nicotine addiction, and symptoms of addiction in adolescence predict regular smoking in emerging adulthood. A recent Surgeon General's report on e-cigarettes and youth notes that there are significant known deleterious health effects resulting from nicotine exposure in adolescence, including changes to the developing brain.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170814143101.htm

Teens with a history of TBI are nearly 4 times more likely to have used crystal meth

November 26, 2014

Science Daily/St. Michael's Hospital

Ontario students between Grades 9 and 12 who said they had a traumatic brain injury in their lifetime, also reported drug use rates two to four times higher than peers with no history of TBI, according to research published today in The Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation.

 

"Overall, a teen with a history of TBI is at least twice as likely as a classmate who hasn't suffered a brain injury to drink alcohol, use cannabis or abuse other drugs," said Dr. Michael Cusimano, co-principal investigator of the study and a neurosurgeon at St. Michael's Hospital. "But when you look at specific drugs, those rates are often higher."

 

The research showed that, in the past 12 months, teens with a history of TBI said they were:

 

·     3.8 times more likely to have used crystal meth

·     3.8 times more likely to have used non-prescribed tranquilizers or sedatives

·     2.8 times more likely to have used Ecstasy

·     2.7 times more likely to have used non-prescribed opioid pain relievers

·     2.6 times more likely to have used hallucinogens

·     2.5 times more likely to have used cocaine

·     2.5 times more likely to have used LSD

·     2.1 times more likely to have used non-prescribed ADHD drugs

 

"On top of the other health consequences, substance abuse increases the odds of suffering an injury that could result in a TBI," said Dr. Cusimano, who is also a researcher with the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science. "And using some of these substances may also impair recovery after injury."

 

Teens with a self-reported history of TBI also reported they were 2.5 times more likely to have smoked one or more cigarettes daily over the past 12 months and nearly twice as likely to have binge drank -- consuming five or more drinks in one sitting -- in the past four weeks.

 

Researchers defined TBI as any hit or blow to the head that resulted in the teenager being knocked out for at least five minutes or spending at least one night in hospital due to symptoms associated with the head injury. Some of these brain injuries could have been also called concussions, which are mild to moderate forms of TBI.

 

"Some people think of concussions as a less alarming injury than a mild TBI but this is wrong," said Dr. Cusimano. "Every concussion is a TBI. People should take every brain injury seriously because, as this research shows, the immediate and long-term effects can alter lives."

 

The data used in the study was from the 2011 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey developed by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. The survey is one of the longest ongoing school surveys in the world. The OSDUHS began as a drug use survey, but is now a broader study of adolescent health and well-being. Questions about traumatic brain injury were added to the survey for the first time in 2011.

 

The study looked at reported substance use among 6,383 Ontario students in Grades 9 through12. Data allowed researchers to determine the substance use habits and history of TBIs among students but did not allow researchers to determine whether substance use or brain injury came first.

 

"These data show us that there are important links between adolescent TBI and substance use," said Dr. Robert Mann, co-principal investigator of the study, senior scientist at CAMH and director of the OSDUHS. "While we can't yet say which one causes the other, we know this combination of factors is something to watch because it can have a serious negative impact on young people as they develop."

 

Dr. Mann said the relationship between TBI and substance use is concerning and calls for greater focus on prevention. "In terms of our research, the next step is to get a better understanding of the direction of these behaviours and to hopefully pinpoint when and how this relationship starts."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141126185146.htm

Inflammation links heart disease and depression

March 18, 2019

Science Daily/University of Cambridge

People with heart disease are more likely to suffer from depression, and the opposite is also true. Now, scientists believe they have identified a link between these two conditions: inflammation -- the body's response to negative environmental factors, such as stress.

 

While inflammation is a natural response necessary to fight off infection, chronic inflammation -- which may result from psychological stress as well as lifestyle factors such as smoking, excessive alcohol intake, physical inactivity and obesity -- is harmful.

 

The link between heart disease and depression is well documented. People who have a heart attack are at a significantly higher risk of experiencing depression. Yet scientists have been unable to determine whether this is due to the two conditions sharing common genetic factors or whether shared environmental factors provide the link.

 

"It is possible that heart disease and depression share common underlying biological mechanisms, which manifest as two different conditions in two different organs -- the cardiovascular system and the brain," says Dr Golam Khandaker, a Wellcome Trust Intermediate Clinical Fellow at the University of Cambridge. "Our work suggests that inflammation could be a shared mechanism for these conditions."

 

In a study published today in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, Dr Khandaker and colleague Dr Stephen Burgess led a team of researchers from Cambridge who examined this link by studying data relating to almost 370,000 middle-aged participants of UK Biobank.

 

First, the team looked at whether family history of coronary heart disease was associated with risk of major depression. They found that people who reported at least one parent having died of heart disease were 20% more likely to develop depression at some point in their life.

 

Next, the researchers calculated a genetic risk score for coronary heart disease -- a measure of the contribution made by the various genes known to increase the risk of heart disease. Heart disease is a so-called 'polygenic' disease -- in other words, it is caused not by a single genetic variant, but rather by a large number of genes, each increasing an individual's chances of developing heart disease by a small amount. Unlike for family history, however, the researchers found no strong association between the genetic predisposition for heart disease and the likelihood of experiencing depression.

 

Together, these results suggest that the link between heart disease and depression cannot be explained by a common genetic predisposition to the two diseases. Instead, it implies that something about an individual's environment -- such as the risk factors they are exposed to -- not only increases their risk of heart disease, but at the same time increases their risk of depression.

 

This finding was given further support by the next stage of the team's research. They used a technique known as Mendelian randomisation to investigate 15 biomarkers -- biological 'red flags' -- associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease. Mendelian randomisation is a statistical technique that allows researchers to rule out the influence of factors that otherwise confuse, or confound, a study, such as social status.

 

Of these common biomarkers, they found that triglycerides (a type of fat found in the blood) and the inflammation-related proteins IL-6 and CRP were also risk factors for depression.

 

Both IL-6 and CRP are inflammatory markers that are produced in response to damaging stimuli, such as infection, stress or smoking. Studies by Dr Khandaker and others have previously shown that people with elevated levels of IL-6 and CRP in the blood are more prone to develop depression, and that levels of these biomarkers are high in some patients during acute depressive episode. Elevated markers of inflammation are also seen in people with treatment resistant depression. This has raised the prospect that anti-inflammatory drugs might be used to treat some patients with depression. Dr Khandaker is currently involved in a clinical trial to test tocilizumab, an anti-inflammatory drug used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis that inhibits IL-6, to see if reducing inflammation leads to improvement in mood and cognitive function in patients with depression.

 

While the link between triglycerides and coronary heart disease is well documented, it is not clear why they, too, should contribute to depression. The link is unlikely to be related by obesity, for example, as this study has found no evidence for a causal link between body mass index (BMI) and depression.

 

"Although we don't know what the shared mechanisms between these diseases are, we now have clues to work with that point towards the involvement of the immune system," says Dr Burgess. "Identifying genetic variants that regulate modifiable risk factors helps to find what is actually driving disease risk."

 

The research was funded by Wellcome and MQ: Transforming Mental Health.

 

Dr Sophie Dix, Director of Research at MQ, says: "This study adds important new insight into the emergence and risk of depression, a significantly under researched area.

 

"Taking a holistic view of a person's health -- such as looking at heart disease and depression together -- enables us to understand how factors like traumatic experiences and the environment impact on both our physical and mental health.

 

"This research shows clearly the shared biological changes that are involved. This not only opens opportunities for earlier diagnosis, but also create a solid foundation for exploring new treatments or using existing treatments differently. We need to stop thinking about mental and physical health in isolation and continue this example of bringing sciences together to create real change."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190318222147.htm

 

Traumatic brain injury and kids: New treatment guidelines issued

March 1, 2019

Science Daily/Oregon Health & Science University

To help promote the highest standards of care, and improve the overall rates of survival and recovery following TBI, a panel of pediatric critical care, neurosurgery and other pediatric experts today issued the third edition of the Brain Trauma Foundation Guidelines for the Management of Pediatric Severe TBI.

 

Each year in the United States, more than 600,000 children are seen in emergency rooms due to traumatic brain injury, a disruption to the normal function of the brain caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head. Severe TBI results in approximately 7,000 childhood deaths annually, while survivors of the condition may suffer from long-term health conditions such as seizures, learning difficulty and communication disorders.

 

To help promote the highest standards of care, and improve the overall rates of survival and recovery following TBI, a panel of pediatric critical care, neurosurgery and other pediatric experts today issued the 3rd edition of the Brain Trauma Foundation Guidelines for the Management of Pediatric Severe TBI.

 

The updated guidelines reflect the addition of nearly 50 research studies, and include eight new, or revised, treatment recommendations for health care providers that range from the use of intracranial monitoring to the use of hypertonic saline to reduce acute brain swelling.

 

An executive summary of the guidelines published in the journals Pediatric Critical Care Medicine and Neurosurgery; the full guidelines are available via Pediatric Critical Care Medicine, an official journal of the Society of Critical Care Medicine and the World Federation of Pediatric Intensive and Critical Care Societies.

 

"These guidelines are vital to the proper care and treatment of children with serious brain injury," said co-author and clinical investigator Nathan Selden, M.D., Ph.D., Campagna Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the OHSU School of Medicine in Portland, Oregon. "Now, health care providers around the world will have access to the best medical evidence and recommendations to help save and improve countless lives."

 

An associated manuscript, also published in Pediatric Critical Care Medicine, describes an algorithm designed to guide first and second tier therapies for infants and children with severe TBI. The tool for bedside use by caregivers, which supplements evidence-based recommendations in the updated guidelines, was created using a validated, consensus-based expert opinion process.

 

"We believe a combination of research findings and real-life experience will further advance the bedside care of infants and children with severe TBI, especially in treatment scenarios where scientific and clinical research is lacking," said first author Patrick Kochanek, M.D., Grenvik Professor and Vice Chairman of Critical Care Medicine and Director of the Safar Center for Resuscitation Research at the University of Pittsburgh. "This algorithm will also help to identify key research priorities to help ensure the ongoing momentum of consistent, high-quality care for patients across the globe."

 

The original Brain Trauma Foundation Guidelines published in 2003 and were last updated in 2012. The 3rd edition was developed as part of the Brain Trauma Evidence-based Consortium based at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The Pacific Northwest Evidence-based Practice Center at OHSU managed the effort, which included experts from OHSU, the University of Pittsburgh, Boston Children's Hospital, Phoenix Children's Hospital, Children's National Medical Center, Seattle Children's Hospital, the University of Utah, the University of British Columbia, and Duke University.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190301192651.htm

Ability to control stress reduces negative impact

February 28, 2019

Science Daily/Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona

In individuals, stress exposure in adolescence increases vulnerability and risk of developing psychopathologies in adulthood, such as drug addiction, mood, anxiety, addiction to gambling, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, etc. Researchers observed in animal models that the ability to control the source of stress diminishes its effects and could reduce the risk of later developing mental disorders.

 

During the exposure to stress, researchers quantified the intensity of their reaction by measuring the endocrine response through the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis). In the adult stage, several experiments were conducted to measure different cognitive variables and the expression of dopamine type 2 receptors in the dorsal striatum, an area of the brain relevant to the behaviours measured. Part of these data forms part of the PhD thesis of INc researcher Maria Sanchís Ollé, first author of the paper.

 

The results indicated that HPA activation induced by controllable and uncontrollable stress was the same in the first exposure to stress. However, with repeated exposures the controllable stress group demonstrated an attenuated HPA response. In their adult stage, the animals exposed to uncontrollable stress in adolescence developed an increase in motor impulsivity and a decrease in cognitive flexibility, effects which were not made evident in those animals exposed to controllable stress. Other aspects (attention and cognitive impulsivity) were not observed to have been affected by stress. At the same time, the behavioural effects of uncontrollable stress were associated with an increase of the number of dopamine type 2 receptors in the dorsal striatum (but not in other sub-divisions), a structure involved in impulsivity and cognitive inflexibility.

 

"Despite the fact that being exposed to situations of stress has short and long-term negative effects on behaviour and physiology, there are several factors which could mitigate its impact. We have observed that one of these factors is the possibility of having control over the source of stress," affirms Roser Nadal.

 

The study has several preventive implications and points to the fact that strategies aimed at increasing the perception of stress controllability during adolescence could mitigate the negative effects of stressful experiences in the adult age and reduce vulnerability to certain psychopathologies.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190228113542.htm

Child anxiety could be factor in school absences

February 27, 2019

Science Daily/University of Exeter

New research has concluded that anxiety can be a factor in poor school attendance among children and young people.

 

A team at the University of Exeter Medical School conducted a systematic review, which analyses all available evidence in the field. The study, published in Child and Adolescent Mental Health, increases our understanding of the link between anxiety and poor school attendance, particularly when unexcused.

 

The research, supported by the Wellcome Trust and the National Institute for Health Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) South West Peninsula (PenCLAHRC), also identifies the lack of high-quality research in the area. In particular, we need more studies that follow children over time to clearly disentangle whether the anxiety leads to poor school attendance or the other way round.

 

Of 4,930 studies in the area, only 11 met the criteria which meant they could be included in the robust analysis. They were conducted in countries across North America, Europe and Asia.

 

The team categorised school attendance into the following categories: absenteeism (i.e. total absences); excused/medical absences; unexcused absences/truancy; and school refusal, where the child struggles to attend school due to emotional distress, despite awareness from parents and teachers.

 

Findings from eight studies suggested a surprising association between truancy and anxiety, as well as the expected link between anxiety and school refusal.

 

Lead author Katie Finning said: "Anxiety is a major issue that not only affects young people's schooling, but can also lead to worse academic, social and economic outcomes throughout life. It's important that we pick up the warning signs and support our young people as early as possible. Our research has identified a gap of high-quality studies in this area, and we urgently need to address this gap so that we best understand how to give our young people the best start in life."

 

Professor Tamsin Ford, who was involved in the research, said: "School staff and health professionals should be alert to the possibility that anxiety might underlie poor school attendance and can also cause lots of different physical symptoms, such as tummy and headaches". Lots of things about school can trigger anxiety in children and it is important to realise that while we all get anxious about somethings, anxiety that is severe can have a major impact on children's development.

 

"Anxiety is highly treatable and we have effective treatments. It is also important to understand that anxiety can lead to impulses to avoid the thing that makes you anxious. Although this avoidance reduces anxiety in the short term, it makes it even harder to cope with the trigger next time and so makes the problem worse. Most anxiety treatments work by teaching the child ways to calm themselves and slowly, with support, helping the child to prove to themselves that they can cope with things that make them anxious.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190227191056.htm

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