Adolescence/Teens 12

Sleep problems in young adult students

December 5, 2018

Science Daily/Wiley

A new study indicates that sleep problems are both prevalent and increasing among students.

 

A study published in the Journal of Sleep Research indicates that sleep problems are both prevalent and increasing among students.

 

In the study that included Norwegian college and university students in 2010, 2014, and 2018, both male and female students had an average sleep duration in the lower end of the normal range on weekdays (7:24 hours) but met their own sleep need and sleep recommendations at weekends (8:25 hours).

 

The overall prevalence of insomnia among participants was 34.2 percent for women and 22.2 percent for men. There was a substantial increase in sleep problems from 2010 (22.6 percent) to 2018 (30.5 percent), which was especially pronounced in women.

 

"We are worried about the high and increasing prevalence of insomnia in our college students. These findings extend on the mental health crisis facing college students today, and emphasize that sleep problems, equal to mental health problems, warrant attention as a public health concern in this population," said lead author Prof. Børge Sivertsen, of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/12/181205093641.htm

Importance of good sleep routines for children

December 3, 2018

Science Daily/University of British Columbia

A new review of sleep research backs use of bedtime routines to promote healthy sleep for children.

 

Sleep hygiene, which includes practices like providing a cool and quiet sleeping environment or reading before bed time to help kids unwind, is increasingly popular among parents looking to ensure their children get a good night's rest. But are these practices all they're cracked up to be? University of British Columbia sleep expert and nursing professor Wendy Hall recently led a review of the latest studies to find out.

 

"Good sleep hygiene gives children the best chances of getting adequate, healthy sleep every day. And healthy sleep is critical in promoting children's growth and development," said Hall. "Research tells us that kids who don't get enough sleep on a consistent basis are more likely to have problems at school and develop more slowly than their peers who are getting enough sleep."

 

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends the following amounts of sleep, based on age group:

 

·     4 to 12 months -- 12 to 16 hours

·     1 to 2 years -- 11 to 14 hours

·     3 to 5 years -- 10 to 13 hours

·     6 to 12 years -- 9 to 12 hours

·     13 to 18 years -- 8 to 10 hours

 

The UBC review aimed at systematically analyzing the evidence for sleep hygiene across different countries and cultures, and honed in on 44 studies from 16 countries. The focus was on four age groups in particular: infants and toddlers (four months to two years), preschoolers (three to five years), school-age children (six to 12 years) and adolescents (13 to 18 years). These studies involved close to 300,000 kids in North America, Europe and Asia.

 

"We found good-to-strong endorsement of certain sleep hygiene practices for younger kids and school-age kids: regular bedtimes, reading before bed, having a quiet bedroom, and self-soothing -- where you give them opportunities to go to sleep and go back to sleep on their own, if they wake up in the middle of the night," said Hall.

 

Even for older kids, keeping a regular bedtime was important. The review found papers that showed that adolescents whose parents set strict guidelines about their sleep slept better than kids whose parents didn't set any guidelines.

 

Hall and co-author Elizabeth Nethery, a nursing PhD student at UBC, also found extensive evidence for limiting technology use just before bedtime, or during the night when kids are supposed to be sleeping. Studies in Japan, New Zealand and the United States showed that the more exposure kids had to electronic media around bedtime, the less sleep they had.

 

"One big problem with school-age children is it can take them a long time to get to sleep, so avoiding activities like playing video games or watching exciting movies before bedtime was important," said Hall.

 

Many of the studies also highlighted the importance of routines in general. A study in New Zealand showed family dinner time was critical to helping adolescents sleep.

 

Information provided by Chinese studies and one Korean study linked school-age children's and adolescents' short sleep duration to long commute times between home and school and large amounts of evening homework. With more children coping with longer commutes and growing amounts of school work, Hall says this is an important area for future study in North America.

 

Surprisingly, there wasn't a lot of evidence linking caffeine use before bedtime to poor sleep; it appeared to be the total intake during the day that matters.

 

While Hall said more studies are needed to examine the effect of certain sleep hygiene factors on sleep quality, she would still strongly recommend that parents set bedtimes, even for older kids, and things like sitting down for a family dinner, establishing certain rituals like reading before bed, and limiting screen time as much as possible.

 

"Sleep education can form part of school programming," added Hall. "There was a project in a Montreal school where everyone was involved in designing and implementing a sleep intervention -- the principal, teachers, parents, kids, and even the Parent Advisory Council. The intervention was effective, because everyone was on board and involved from the outset."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/12/181203080327.htm

Bonus for superior snoozing: Students who meet 8-hour sleep challenge do better on finals

December 3, 2018

Science Daily/Baylor University

Students given extra points if they met 'The 8-hour Challenge' -- averaging eight hours of sleep for five nights during final exams week -- did better than those who snubbed (or flubbed) the incentive, according to new research.

 

"Better sleep helped rather than harmed final exam performance, which is contrary to most college students' perceptions that they have to sacrifice either studying or sleeping. And you don't have to be an 'A' student or have detailed education on sleep for this to work," said Michael Scullin, Ph.D., director of Baylor's Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory and assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences.

 

While students who successfully met the sleep challenge received extra points, the "mini-incentive" was not included in the analysis of how well they performed on the finals, stressed Elise King, assistant professor of interior design in Baylor's Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences.

 

"They didn't just perform well because they received extra points," she said. "Students know that sacrificing sleep to complete school work is not a healthy choice, but they assume they don't have a choice, often remarking that there aren't enough hours in the day for coursework, extracurriculars, jobs, etc. "

 

This removes that excuse."

 

Research participants included undergraduate interior design students and students in upper-level psychology and neuroscience classes. While the psychology classes emphasized education about sleep, the interior design students did not receive any formal training in sleep. Those who opted to take the challenge wore wristband sleep-monitoring devices for five days to ensure accurate study results.

 

"The students didn't need the extra credit to perform better, and they weren't really better students from the get-go," Scullin said. "If you statistically correct for whether a student was an A, B, C, or D student before their final exam, sleeping 8 hours was associated with a four-point grade boost -- even prior to applying extra credit."

 

The collaborative interior design study -- "The 8-Hour Challenge: Incentivizing Sleep During End-of-Term Assessments -- was published in the Journal of Interior Design. Scullin's study of psychology students -- "The 8-Hour Sleep Challenge During Final Exams Week" -- was published in Teaching of Psychology.

 

Poor sleep is common during finals as students cut back on sleep, deal with more stress, use more caffeine and are exposed to more bright light, all of which may disrupt sleep. Fewer than 10 percent of undergraduates maintain the recommended average of 8 hours a night or even the recommended minimum of 7 hours, previous research shows.

 

But with incentives, "we can potentially completely reverse the proportion of students meeting minimum sleep recommendations -- 7 hours a night -- from fewer than 15 percent up to 90 percent," Scullin said. "Half of students can even meet optimal sleep recommendations of 8 to 9 hours."

 

* PSYCHOLOGY STUDENTS

 

In the study of psychology students, 34 students in two undergraduate courses could earn extra credit if they averaged 8 hours of sleep during final exams week or at least improved upon their sleep from earlier in the semester.

 

The 24 who opted to take the challenge averaged 8.5 hours of sleep, with 17 meeting the goal. On the final exam, students who slept more than 8 hours nightly performed better than those who opted out or slept less than 7.9 hours. (The incentive was 8 points -- the equivalent of 1 percent of a student's overall class grade.)

 

"It's worth noting that one student who had a D-plus grade before the final but slept more than 8 hours a week during finals week, remarked that it was the 'first time my brain worked while taking an exam,'" Scullin said.

 

* INTERIOR DESIGN STUDENTS

 

In the interior design study challenge, students earned credit (10 points on a 200-point project) if they averaged 8 or more hours a night but received no grade change if they averaged 7 to 7.9 hours a night.

 

Of the 27 students enrolled in the program, 22 attempted the challenge. Compared with a group of 22 students who did not try for the extra points, very few (9 percent) averaged 8 hours or even 7 hours (14 percent).

 

The 8 hour challenge increased the percentage of 8? and 7?hour sleepers to 59 percent and 86 percent respectively. Students who took part in the challenge slept an average of 98 minutes more per night compared to students who were not offered the incentive but were monitored.

 

"Critically, the additional sleep did not come at a cost to project performance," King said. "Students who showed more consistent sleep performed better than those who had less consistent sleep. And students who achieved the challenge performed as well or better than those who did not take the challenge."

 

In a study of sleep and creativity done in 2017, King and Scullin found that interior design students with highly variable sleep habits -- cycling between "all-nighters" and "catch-up" nights -- had decreased cognition in attention and creativity, especially with major projects. Design students customarily complete finals projects rather than final exams.

 

"Whether or not they 'pull an all-nighter,' when students cut their sleep, the effects are obvious," King said. "They have trouble paying attention during class, and they aren't as productive during studio time."

 

She noted that there is a cultural acceptability -- at least in design professions -- related to sleep deprivation, thanks in part to the notion of the "tortured artist" who finds inspiration in the wee hours.

 

"Some fields might find it unprofessional, but for many years, in design, sacrificing sleep was viewed as a rite of passage. That's something we're trying to change," King said. "Even during stressful deadline weeks, students can maintain healthy sleep habits."

 

"To be successful at the challenge, students need to manage their time better during the day. Getting more sleep at night then allows them to be more efficient the next day," Scullin said. "By training students in their first year of college, if not earlier, that they can sleep well during finals week without sacrificing performance, we may help to resolve the 'global sleep epidemic' that plagues students in America and abroad."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/12/181203080319.htm

Study uncovers link between air pollution and intellectual disabilities in children

November 21, 2018

Science Daily/Wiley

British children with intellectual disabilities are more likely than their peers to live in areas with high outdoor air pollution, according to a new study.

 

The findings come from an analysis of data extracted from the UK's Millennium Cohort Study, a nationally representative sample of more than 18,000 UK children born in 2000 to 2002.

 

Averaging across ages, children with intellectual disabilities were 33 percent more likely to live in areas with high levels of diesel particulate matter, 30 percent more likely to live in areas with high levels of nitrogen dioxide, 30 percent more likely to live in areas with high levels of carbon monoxide, and 17 percent more likely to live in areas with high levels of sulphur dioxide.

 

The authors note that intellectual disability is more common among children living in more socio-economically deprived areas, which tend to have higher levels of air pollution; however, exposure to outdoor air pollution may impede cognitive development, thereby increasing the risk of intellectual disability.

 

"We know that people with intellectual disabilities in the UK have poorer health and die earlier than they should. This research adds another piece to the jigsaw of understanding why that is the case and what needs to be done about it," said lead author Dr. Eric Emerson, of The University of Sydney, in Australia.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181121073250.htm

Kindergarten difficulties may predict academic achievement across primary grades

November 19, 2018

Science Daily/Penn State

Identifying factors that predict academic difficulties during elementary school should help inform efforts to help children who may be at risk. New research suggests that children's executive functions may be a particularly important risk factor for such difficulties.

 

Preliminary findings from a three-year National Science Foundation-funded project, recently published in Child Development, show that executive functions in kindergarten predict children's mathematics, reading and science achievement, as well as their classroom behavior, in second grade. A second study from the project, recently published in Early Childhood Research Quarterly, finds that deficits in executive functions increase the risk for experiencing repeated academic difficulties in mathematics, reading and science from first to third grade. The NSF is also highlighting the findings in their Discovery News.

 

According to principal investigator Paul Morgan, Harry and Marion Eberly Fellow, professor of education and demography, and director of the Center for Educational Disparities, executive functions (EF) are a set of cognitive processes that facilitate children's abilities to plan, problem-solve, and control impulses. "Our research shows that deficits in EF increase the risk for repeated academic difficulties over time, suggesting these deficits may be an especially promising target of early intervention efforts."

 

This research is important because few previous studies have examined risk factors for repeated academic difficulties during elementary school.

 

"Of the few available longitudinal studies, most have focused on identifying risk factors for repeated difficulties in mathematics," said Morgan. "Risk factors for repeated difficulties in reading and science have been less clear, as has which specific types of EF are the strongest risk factors for such difficulties." Also unclear is whether the risks attributable to deficits in EF can be explained by other factors.

 

For the first study, Morgan and his research team analyzed a nationally representative and longitudinal cohort of about 9,000 kindergarten children who were followed until the end of second grade.

 

The investigators found that kindergarten children with better EF displayed greater reading, mathematics and science achievement, as well as fewer externalizing and internalizing problem behaviors by second grade, even after controlling for prior achievement and behavior as well as socio-demographic factors such as gender, age, disability status and family economic status.

 

In the second study, researchers once again analyzed data from about 11,000 children who were followed from kindergarten to third grade.

 

"The first study looked at the relation between children's EF and academics and behavior more generally, while the second study focused more on children at risk," Morgan explained. "Specifically, in the second study we examined whether deficits in EF functioned as a type of 'bottleneck' for learning, as suggested by the increased risk for repeated academic difficulties for children with EF deficits and based on these observational data."

 

Despite controls for prior achievement, including across several domains as well as socio-demographic characteristics, having deficits in EF by kindergarten consistently increased the risk that children will experience repeated academic difficulties across elementary school.

 

The risks for working-memory deficits, or difficulties using and manipulating new information, were especially strong. The researchers found that the odds that kindergarten children with working-memory deficits experienced repeated academic difficulties were about three to five times greater than children without working-memory deficits, controlling for whether children had other types of deficits in EF, prior achievement and oral language ability, and socio-demographic characteristics, including the family's economic resources.

 

"Our study also provides suggestive evidence that repeated academic difficulties may be the result of underlying cognitive impairments, not just a lack of basic skills acquisition," said Morgan.

 

The findings could help inform the design and delivery of experimentally evaluated interventions, particularly for those who are at risk for academic difficulties during elementary school.

 

"Children who are already experiencing repeated academic difficulties during elementary school are likely to continue to struggle in school as they age. We should be doing all we can to assist these children early on in their school careers," Morgan said.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181119160244.htm

Parents shouldn't worry if their infant doesn't sleep through the night by a year old

Study of close to 400 infants found no association between interrupted sleep and later developmental problems

November 14, 2018

Science Daily/McGill University

The authors of a study found that a large percentage of healthy babies don't start sleeping through the night even at a year old. The research team also examined whether infants who didn't sleep for six or eight consecutive hours were more likely to have problems with psychomotor and mental development, and found no association. The researchers also found no correlation between infants waking up at night and their mothers' postnatal mood.

 

New parents often expect their baby to start sleeping through the night by around six months of age. Indeed, they often receive messages from paediatricians and others about the importance of early sleep consolidation. But authors of a study in the December 2018 issue of Pediatrics found that a large percentage of healthy babies don't reach that milestone by six months of age, or even at a year old. The McGill-led research team also examined whether infants who didn't sleep for six or eight consecutive hours were more likely to have problems with psychomotor and mental development, and found no association. The researchers also found no correlation between infants waking up at night and their mothers' postnatal mood.

 

Study details

 

The researchers analyzed information from the Maternal Adversity, Vulnerability, and Neurodevelopment longitudinal birth cohort study, which recruited participants from obstetric clinics in Montreal, Québec and Hamilton, Ontario. Sleeping through the night was defined as either six or eight hours of sleep without waking up. Sleep measures were available for 388 infants at six months old, and 369 infants at a year old. At six months of age, according to mothers' reports, 38 percent of typically developing infants were not yet sleeping at least six consecutive hours at night; more than half (57 percent) weren't sleeping eight hours. At twelve months old, 28 percent of infants weren't yet sleeping six hours straight at night, and 43 percent weren't staying asleep eight hours. Researchers saw a difference between sleep patterns of boys and girls. At six months old, a slightly higher percentage of girls than boys slept for eight hours straight. (48 % vs. 39 %). Researchers also found no correlation between infants waking up at night and their mothers' postnatal mood. But they did discover that babies who didn't sleep for six or eight consecutive hours had a significantly higher rate of breastfeeding, which offers many benefits for babies and mothers.

 

A "gold standard" that may need to be revised

 

Sleeping through the night somewhere between six to twelve months is generally considered the "gold standard" in Western nations. Indeed, behavioural sleep training is popular among parents and professionals to encourage the children to sleep. But lead researcher, Marie-Hélène Pennestri, from McGill University's Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology and the Sleep Clinic at Hôpital en santé mentale Rivière-des-Prairies (CIUSSS-NIM) hopes that the results of the study will allay some parental worries:

 

"Our findings suggest parents might benefit from more education about the normal development of -- and wide variability in -- infants' sleep-wake cycles instead of only focusing on methods and interventions, especially for those who feel stressed about methods such as delayed response to crying." She says, "Maternal sleep deprivation is often invoked to support the introduction of early behavioural interventions, but it may be that mothers' expectations about being awakened at night along with the total number of hours they sleep over the course of a day are better predictors of maternal well-being. It is something that will need to be considered in future studies."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181114160021.htm

Insufficient sleep in children is associated with poor diet, obesity and more screen time

New study suggests a relationship between insufficient sleep and an unhealthy lifestyle

November 12, 2018

Science Daily/American Academy of Sleep Medicine

A new study conducted among more than 177,000 students suggests that insufficient sleep duration is associated with an unhealthy lifestyle profile among children and adolescents.

 

Results show that insufficient sleep duration was associated with unhealthy dietary habits such as skipping breakfast (adjusted odds ratio 1.30), fast-food consumption (OR 1.35) and consuming sweets regularly (OR 1.32). Insufficient sleep duration also was associated with increased screen time (OR 1.26) and being overweight/obese (OR 1.21).

 

"Approximately 40 percent of schoolchildren in the study slept less than recommended," said senior author Labros Sidossis, PhD, distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Kinesiology and Health at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. "Insufficient sleeping levels were associated with poor dietary habits, increased screen time and obesity in both genders."

 

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

 

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that children 6 to 12 years of age should sleep nine to 12 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health. Teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep eight to 10 hours.

 

Population data were derived from a school-based health survey completed in Greece by 177,091 children (51 percent male) between the ages of 8 and 17 years. Dietary habits, usual weekday and weekend sleeping hours, physical activity status, and sedentary activities were assessed through electronic questionnaires completed at school. Children who reported that they usually sleep fewer than nine hours per day, and adolescents sleeping fewer than eight hours per day, were classified as having insufficient sleep. Anthropometric and physical fitness measurements were obtained by physical education teachers.

 

A greater proportion of males than females (42.3 percent versus 37.3 percent) and of children compared with adolescents (42.1 percent versus 32.8 percent) reported insufficient sleep duration. Adolescents with an insufficient sleep duration also had lower aerobic fitness and physical activity.

 

"The most surprising finding was that aerobic fitness was associated with sleep habits," said Sidossis. "In other words, better sleep habits were associated with better levels of aerobic fitness. We can speculate that adequate sleep results in higher energy levels during the day. Therefore, children who sleep well are maybe more physically active during the day and hence have higher aerobic capacity."

 

The authors noted that the results support the development of interventions to help students improve sleep duration.

 

"Insufficient sleep duration among children constitutes an understated health problem in Westernized societies," Sidossis said. "Taking into consideration these epidemiologic findings, parents, teachers and health professionals should promote strategies emphasizing healthy sleeping patterns for school-aged children in terms of quality and duration."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181112191814.htm

Children's sleep not significantly affected by screen time

November 5, 2018

Science Daily/University of Oxford

As young people spend an increasing amount of time on electronic devices, the effects of these digital activities has become a prevalent concern among parents, caregivers, and policy-makers. Research indicating that between 50 percent to 90 percent of school-age children might not be getting enough sleep has prompted calls that technology use may be to blame. However, new research has shown that screen time has very little practical effect on children's sleep.

 

Screens are now a fixture of modern childhood. And as young people spend an increasing amount of time on electronic devices, the effects of these digital activities has become a prevalent concern among parents, caregivers, and policy-makers. Research indicating that between 50% to 90% of school-age children might not be getting enough sleep has prompted calls that technology use may be to blame. However, the new research findings from the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford, has shown that screen time has very little practical effect on children's sleep.

 

The study was conducted using data from the United States' 2016 National Survey of Children's Health. Parents from across the country completed self-report surveys on themselves, their children and household.

 

"The findings suggest that the relationship between sleep and screen use in children is extremely modest," says Professor Andrew Przybylski, author of the study published in the Journal of Pediatrics. "Every hour of screen time was related to 3 to 8 fewer minutes of sleep a night."

 

In practical terms, while the correlation between screen time and sleep in children exists, it might be too small to make a significant difference to a child's sleep. For example, when you compare the average nightly sleep of a tech-abstaining teenager (at 8 hours, 51 minutes) with a teenager who devotes 8 hours a day to screens (at 8 hours, 21 minutes), the difference is overall inconsequential. Other known factors, such as early starts to the school day, have a larger effect on childhood sleep.

 

"This suggests we need to look at other variables when it comes to children and their sleep," says Przybylski. Analysis in the study indicated that variables within the family and household were significantly associated with both screen use and sleep outcomes. "Focusing on bedtime routines and regular patterns of sleep, such as consistent wake-up times, are much more effective strategies for helping young people sleep than thinking screens themselves play a significant role."

 

The aim of this study was to provide parents and practitioners with a realistic foundation for looking at screen versus the impact of other interventions on sleep. "While a relationship between screens and sleep is there, we need to look at research from the lens of what is practically significant," says Przybylski. "Because the effects of screens are so modest, it is possible that many studies with smaller sample sizes could be false positives -- results that support an effect that in reality does not exist."

 

"The next step from here is research on the precise mechanisms that link digital screens to sleep. Though technologies and tools relating to so-called 'blue light' have been implicated in sleep problems, it is not clear whether play a significant causal role," says Przybylski. "Screens are here to stay, so transparent, reproducible, and robust research is needed to figure out how tech effects us and how we best intervene to limit its negative effects."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181105132939.htm

Happy childhood memories linked to better health later in life

Fond recollections of parents a key factor

November 5, 2018

Science Daily/American Psychological Association

People who have fond memories of childhood, specifically their relationships with their parents, tend to have better health, less depression and fewer chronic illnesses as older adults.

 

"We know that memory plays a huge part in how we make sense of the world -- how we organize our past experiences and how we judge how we should act in the future. As a result, there are a lot of different ways that our memories of the past can guide us," said William J. Chopik, PhD, from Michigan State University and lead author of the study. "We found that good memories seem to have a positive effect on health and well-being, possibly through the ways that they reduce stress or help us maintain healthy choices in life."

 

The findings were published in the journal Health Psychology.

 

Previous research has shown a positive relationship between good memories and good health in young adults, including higher quality of work and personal relationships, lower substance use, lower depression and fewer health problems, according to Chopik. He and his co-author, Robin Edelstein, PhD, from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, wanted to see how this would apply to older adults.

 

Also, much of the existing research focused on mothers and rarely examined the role of fathers in child development. Chopik and Edelstein sought to expand on the existing studies to include participants' reflections of their relationships with both parents.

 

The researchers used data from two nationally representative samples, the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States and the Health and Retirement Study, with a total of more than 22,000 participants. The first study followed adults in their mid-40s for 18 years and the second followed adults 50 and over for six years. The surveys included questions about perceptions of parental affection, overall health, chronic conditions and depressive symptoms.

 

Participants in both groups who reported remembering higher levels of affection from their mothers in early childhood experienced better physical health and fewer depressive symptoms later in life. Those who reported memories with more support from their fathers also experienced fewer depressive symptoms, according to Chopik.

 

"The most surprising finding was that we thought the effects would fade over time because participants were trying to recall things that happened sometimes over 50 years ago. One might expect childhood memories to matter less and less over time, but these memories still predicted better physical and mental health when people were in middle age and older adulthood," said Chopik.

 

There was a stronger association in people who reported a more loving relationship with their mothers, noted Chopik, but that might change.

 

"These results may reflect the broader cultural circumstances of the time when the participants were raised because mothers were most likely the primary caregivers," said Edelstein. "With shifting cultural norms about the role of fathers in caregiving, it is possible that results from future studies of people born in more recent years will focus more on relationships with their fathers."

 

Chopik and Edelstein found that participants with positive childhood memories also had fewer chronic conditions in the first study of 7,100 people, but not in the second study of 15,200, making the results less straightforward

 

That may be because chronic conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disease and high blood pressure were rare in both samples, said Chopik. Future studies in this area could focus more closely on childhood memories in older adults with chronic conditions.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181105091759.htm

Children who experience violence early in life develop faster

A study examines the effects of early life adversity on pubertal development and epigenetic age

November 1, 2018

Science Daily/Elsevier

A study has shown that exposure to violence early in life -- such as physical, emotional, or sexual abuse -- is associated with faster biological aging, including pubertal development and a cellular metric of biological aging called epigenetic age.

 

"[The findings] demonstrate that different types of early-life adversity can have different consequences for children's development," said senior author Katie McLaughlin, PhD, who completed the study at University of Washington. Poor physical and mental health outcomes associated with early life adversity have been attributed to accelerated development. However, the new findings show that violence- and deprivation-related adversity have different effects on development, indicating that the specific type of adversity should be considered to better understand how an experience will affect a child later in life.

 

In children who experienced early life violence, accelerated epigenetic aging was associated with increased symptoms of depression. According to the authors, this means that faster biological aging may be one way that early life adversity "gets under the skin" to contribute to later health problems.

 

The 247 children and adolescents involved in the study were 8-16 years old. "These findings indicate that accelerated aging following exposure to violence early in life can already be detected in children as young as 8 years old," said Dr. McLaughlin.

 

"With each new study, it seems that our appreciation grows of the enormous and persisting impact of early life exposure to violence. This new knowledge calls for increased societal investment in reducing the exposure of children to violence and for biomedical and psychological research to reduce the impact of these experiences throughout the lives of these vulnerable individuals," said John Krystal, MD, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.

 

Although researchers don't know if accelerated epigenetic aging is permanent or if it can be reversed, the association between the aging metrics and symptoms of depression in this study may offer a way for doctors to identify children who need help. "Accelerated epigenetic age and pubertal stage could be used to identify youth who are developing faster than expected given their chronological age and who might benefit from intervention. Pubertal stage is an especially useful marker because it is easy and inexpensive to assess by healthcare providers, and could be used to identify youth who may need more intensive health services," said Dr. McLaughlin.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181101133812.htm

Reduced screen time for young highly recommended for well-being

October 29, 2018

Science Daily/San Diego State University

A new study indicates that more hours of screen time are associated with lower well-being in those aged 2 to 17, though the association is larger for adolescents than for younger children.

 

Too much time spent on gaming, smartphones and watching television is linked to heightened levels and diagnoses of anxiety or depression in children as young as age 2, according to a new study.

 

Even after only one hour of screen time daily, children and teens may begin to have less curiosity, lower self-control, less emotional stability and a greater inability to finish tasks, reports San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge and University of Georgia psychology professor W. Keith Campbell.

 

Twenge and Campbell's results were published in an article, "Associations between screen time and lower psychological well-being among children and adolescents: Evidence from a population-based study," which appeared this month in Preventative Medicine Reports.

 

Twenge and Campbell were particularly interested in associations between screen time and diagnoses of anxiety and depression in youth, which has not yet been studied in great detail.

 

Their findings provide broader insights at a time when youth have greater access to digital technologies and are spending more time using electronic technology purely for entertainment, and also as health officials are trying to identify best practices for managing technology addiction.

 

"Previous research on associations between screen time and psychological well-being among children and adolescents has been conflicting, leading some researchers to question the limits on screen time suggested by physician organizations," Twenge and Campbell wrote in their paper.

 

The National Institute of Health estimates that youth commonly spend an average of five to seven hours on screens during leisure time. Also, a growing body of research indicates that this amount of screen time has adverse effects on the overall health and well-being of youth.

 

Also timely: the World Health Organization this year decided to include gaming disorder in the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases. The organization is encouraging "increased attention of health professionals to the risks of development of this disorder" as gaming addiction may now be classified as a disease.

 

Utilizing National Survey of Children's Health data from 2016, Twenge and Campbell analyzed a random sample of more than 40,300 surveys from the caregivers of children aged 2 to 17.

 

The nationwide survey was administered by the U.S. Census Bureau by mail and online and inquired about topics such as: existing medical care; emotional, developmental and behavioral issues; and youth behaviors, including daily screen time. Twenge and Campbell excluded youth with conditions such autism, cerebral palsy and developmental delay, as they may have impacted a child's day to day functioning.

 

Twenge and Campbell found that adolescents who spend more than seven hours a day on screens were twice as likely as those spending one hour to have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression -- a significant finding. Overall, links between screen time and well-being were larger among adolescents than among young children.

 

"At first, I was surprised that the associations were larger for adolescents," Twenge said. "However, teens spend more time on their phones and on social media, and we know from other research that these activities are more strongly linked to low well-being than watching television and videos, which is most of younger children's screen time."

 

Among other highlights of Twenge and Campbell's study:

 

·     Moderate use of screens, at four hours each day, was also associated with lower psychological well-being than use of one hour a day.

·     Among preschoolers, high users of screens were twice as likely to often lose their temper and 46 percent more likely to not be able to calm down when excited.

·     Among teens aged 14-17, 42.2 percent of those who spent more than seven hours a day on screens did not finish tasks compared with 16.6 percent for those who spent one hour daily and 27.7 percent for those engaged for four hours of screen time.

·     About 9 percent of youth aged 11-13 who spent an hour with screens daily were not curious or interested in learning new things, compared with 13.8 percent who spent four hours on screen and 22.6 percent who spent more than seven hours with screens.

 

The study provides further evidence that the American Academy of Pediatrics' established screen time limits -- one hour per day for those aged 2 to 5, with a focus on high-quality programs -- are valid, Twenge said.

 

The study also suggests that similar limits -- perhaps to two hours a day -- should be applied to school-aged children and adolescents, said Twenge, also author of "iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy -- and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood."

 

In terms of prevention, establishing possible causes and outcomes of low psychological well-being is especially important for child and adolescent populations. "Half of mental health problems develop by adolescence," Twenge and Campbell wrote in their paper.

 

"Thus, there is an acute need to identify factors linked to mental health issues that are amenable to intervention in this population, as most antecedents are difficult or impossible to influence," they continued. "Compared to these more intractable antecedents of mental health, how children and adolescents spend their leisure time is more amenable to change."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181029150931.htm

Brainwave activity reveals potential biomarker for autism in children

October 26, 2018

Science Daily/Kanazawa University

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects children's social and intellectual development. Conventional diagnostic methods for ASD rely on behavioral observation. Researchers have now identified a potential quantifiable biomarker for diagnosing ASD. Using magnetic brainwave imaging, they correlated altered gamma oscillation with the motor response of children with ASD, which is consistent with previous key hypotheses on ASD. The means of observation potentially offers a noninvasive, impartial form of early diagnosis of ASD.

 

Now, a team of researchers at Kanazawa University in Japan have made an important step towards identifying a biomarker based on motor-related brain activity. Their work followed on from the key hypothesis that autism results from an excitatory and inhibitory imbalance in the brain, which is associated with repetitive brainwaves called gamma oscillations. A reduction in this type of brain activity has been seen during visual, auditory, and tactile stimulation in individuals with ASD.

 

The researchers set out to further explore motor-induced gamma oscillations in children with ASD, and recently reported their findings in The Journal of Neuroscience.

 

They formed two groups of children who were 5-7 years old. Those in the first group were conventionally diagnosed with ASD, while the second group was made up of children classed as developing typically. The children each performed a video-game-like task where they had to press a button with their right finger, while in a relaxed environment. Magnetoencephalography, which records magnetic activity from neurons, was used to monitor the children's brainwaves during the task.

 

"We measured the button response time, motor-evoked magnetic fields, and motor-related gamma oscillations," study corresponding author Mitsuru Kikuchi says. "As found in other studies, the ASD children's response time was slightly slower and the amplitude in their magnetic fields was a bit decreased. The gamma oscillations were where we saw significant and interesting differences."

 

There was a considerably lower peak frequency of the gamma oscillations in the ASD group. A lower peak frequency of motor-related gamma oscillations also signaled low concentration of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, which has also been found associated with ASD. The findings additionally suggest delayed development of motor control in young children with ASD. Collectively the behavioral performance and brainwave findings offer promise for ASD diagnosis.

 

"Early diagnosis of ASD is highly important so that we can actively manage the disorder as soon as possible," first author Kyung-min An says. "These findings may prove to be extremely useful in helping us understand the neurophysiological mechanism behind social and motor control development in children with ASD. Using magnetoencephalography in this way gives us a noninvasive and quantifiable biomarker, which is something we are in great need of."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181026102712.htm

Parent-child bond predicts depression, anxiety in teens attending high-achieving schools

October 25, 2018

Science Daily/Arizona State University

Researchers have found the quality of the parent-child relationship steadily declined starting in grade 6, and levels of alienation, trust and communication in middle school predicted depressive symptoms and anxiety in grade 12.

 

What causes some adolescents to thrive while other teenagers struggle with substance abuse and mental health? Through years of research, the scientists who study development and the clinicians who treat troubled teenagers have developed a list of risk factors that predict the problems faced by adolescents.

 

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, an influential philanthropic organization that focuses on health, recently published a report on adolescent wellness that prioritized risk factors for adolescents. The top three -- poverty, racism and discrimination -- have been on the list for many years, but the 2018 report included a new factor: ongoing pressures to excel that occur in high-achieving schools in mostly affluent communities.

 

Although attending a high-achieving school might not seem as risky as living in poverty or facing racism or discrimination, decades of research has shown that in fact it is.

 

"Teens in high achieving schools face different kinds of pressure, but it is substantial pressure nonetheless," said Arizona State University psychology graduate student Ashley Ebbert.

 

Ebbert has worked with Frank Infurna and Suniya Luthar in the ASU Department of Psychology to examine how the quality of the parent-child relationship influenced the mental health of adolescents who attend high-achieving schools. She is first author on an upcoming paper in Development and Psychopathology that will be published on October 25.

 

A long-term predictive study of adolescence

 

The researchers used data from the New England Study of Suburban Youth (NESSY), a long-term study of adolescents led by Luthar, Foundation Professor of Psychology at ASU and co-author on the paper. Participating students came mostly from two-parent families where the parents were white-collar professionals and well-educated. Each school year the NESSY participants completed questionnaires that included measures of their mental health and assess the quality of their relationships with others. The ASU researchers used assessments of the mental health and quality of parent relationships from 262 children.

 

"Parent-child relationships continue to serve as instrumental sources of support throughout adolescence," Ebbert said. "The quality of these connections can have ripple effects on adjustment and mental health outcomes."

 

The researchers used data from seven years -- sixth grade through senior year of high school -- to look at how the children's feelings about the parent-child relationship affected their mental health as seniors in high school. The yearly assessments evaluated feelings of alienation from each parent, how much trust the child felt with each parent and how well the child and parents communicated.

 

"We wanted the child's perspective on the relationship with their parents because ultimately it doesn't matter much how parents think they are doing," Luthar said. "It's what the children experience that is far more important in terms of effects on their mental health."

 

During the senior year of high school, the participants' mental health was assessed with surveys that measured depressive symptoms and anxiety levels.

 

The interplay of alienation, trust and communication

 

Starting in the sixth grade, the children reported growing disconnect with their parents. During the middle school years, the participants indicated increases in feelings of alienation from both parents as the levels of trust and quality of communication decreased.

 

"Kids pulling away from parents is a well-known phenomenon of adolescence, but we found that it really begins in early middle school," Luthar said.

 

The pulling away from parents associated with adolescence happens as the teenagers, or even pre-teenagers, begin to explore self-sufficiency and independence. Ebbert said a natural inclination of parents is to give their child space to navigate independence, but she added that if this response is seen as disengagement by kids, it can lead to problems like the ones the researchers found in the NESSY participants.

 

"We wanted to understand how the changes in the children's feelings of alienation, trust and communication with both parents affected their development, so we examined whether the reported changes could predict depressive symptoms or anxiety by the end of high school," said Infurna, associate professor of psychology and co-author on the paper.

 

Increases in alienation from both parents and decreasing less trust between children and their mothers were related to higher levels of anxiety in grade 12. Depressive symptoms in grade 12 were also predicted by increasing alienation and decreasing trust with mothers during the high school years.

 

The researchers found gender differences, in both the student participants and in the effect of parents. Middle school girls reported experiencing greater increases in alienation from both parents and greater decreases in trust with their mothers. Symptom levels at age 18 also differed, with girls experiencing higher levels of anxiety than boys during the senior year.

 

There were differences in the average quality of the relationship with mothers and fathers. Overall, the participants reported feeling closer to their mothers, which the researchers suggested might explain why the changes in alienation, trust and communication were greater between children and their mothers.

 

"Our findings emphasize the importance of parents constantly working on close and supportive relationships with their children, even if the teenager or pre-teen is pulling away," Ebbert said. "The teen might be pulling away as part of the natural process of developing into an individual separate from their parents, but parents remain a primary influence and the primary source of support for the teen."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181025141007.htm

Father's nicotine use can cause cognitive problems in children and grandchildren

Mouse study implicates epigenetic changes in paternal sperm DNA

October 16, 2018

Science Daily/PLOS

A father's exposure to nicotine may cause cognitive deficits in his children and even grandchildren, according to a new study. The effect, which was not caused by direct secondhand exposure, may be due to epigenetic changes in key genes in the father's sperm.

 

Exposure of mothers to nicotine and other components of cigarette smoke is recognized as a significant risk factor for behavioral disorders, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, (or ADHD) in multiple generations of descendants. Whether the same applies to fathers has been less clear, in part because in human studies it has been difficult to separate genetic factors (such as a genetic predisposition to ADHD) from environmental factors, such as direct exposure to cigarette smoke.

 

To overcome this difficulty, Deirdre McCarthy, Pradeep Bhide and colleagues exposed male mice to low-dose nicotine in their drinking water during the stage of life in which the mice produce sperm. They then bred these mice with females that had never been exposed to nicotine. While the fathers were behaviorally normal, both sexes of offspring displayed hyperactivity, attention deficit, and cognitive inflexibility. When female (but not male) mice from this generation were bred with nicotine-naïve mates, male offspring displayed fewer, but still significant, deficits in cognitive flexibility. Analysis of spermatozoa from the original nicotine-exposed males indicated that promoter regions of multiple genes had been epigenetically modified, including the dopamine D2 gene, critical for brain development and learning, suggesting that these modifications likely contributed to the cognitive deficits in the descendants.

 

Nicotine and cigarette smoke have been previously shown to cause widespread epigenetic changes, Bhide said. "The fact that men smoke more than women makes the effects in males especially important from a public health perspective. Our findings underscore the need for more research on the effects of smoking by the father, rather than just the mother, on the health of their children."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181016142422.htm

Kids' sleep may suffer from moms' tight work schedules

October 15, 2018

Science Daily/Penn State

After studying the sleep habits of children from ages five to nine, researchers found that when mothers reported less flexibility in their work schedules, their children got less sleep. When they gained flexibility in their work schedules, their children slept more.

 

However, this link diminished when the researchers accounted for whether the children were given regular bedtime routines, suggesting consistent bedtimes may be the key to offsetting damage done by tight work schedules.

 

Orfeu Buxton, professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State, said the results give clues into how and why a parent's work schedule may affect their children's sleep.

 

"We've seen this link between inflexible work schedules and children's sleep patterns before, but we didn't know why it was happening," Buxton said. "Our results suggest that maybe it's about children not having a regular bedtime routine if their mother is working an inflexible job. We know positive routines especially are very important for positive child growth, so sleep may suffer if it's not there."

 

The researchers said the findings -- recently published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies -- also suggest that it could be helpful for employers to create policies that give employees more flexibility, both for the health of the employees and their children.

 

Soomi Lee, now an assistant professor at University of South Florida, who led the paper while a postdoctoral scholar at Penn State, said employers could begin by considering how to change both the structural and cultural practices that may hinder flexibility.

 

"If workplaces could improve employees' flexibility and control over when and where they work, that could be helpful," Lee said. "They could offer diverse flexible work options for employees, especially for working mothers, such as flextime, telecommuting, or job-sharing with another employee."

 

Buxton said the study gives parents with inflexible work schedules a way to possibly help their kids get more sleep.

 

"If parents can be there for their kids on a regular basis, and help them by having a regular bedtime routine, all of that's very beneficial for their long-term growth and development," Buxton said. "Children can be a delight to watch go to sleep. Perhaps you could start with a bath, then brushing teeth and reading books to create this sort of calm, together time as a family."

 

The researchers used data from 1,040 mothers and their children for the study. When the children were five and nine years old, their mothers were asked questions about how flexible they felt their jobs were. For example, if their "work schedule had enough flexibility to handle family needs."

 

At each time point, the mothers were also asked if their child had a regular bedtime, if their child had difficulty getting to sleep, and how many hours a night their child usually slept.

 

Buxton said it was important to measure how flexible the mothers thought their job schedules were, because some employers say their positions are flexible, but only ways that benefit the employer.

 

"Many adults, especially low-socioeconomic status workers who are single moms, are clock punching," Buxton said. "In many of these positions, people may be called in at the last minute, or sent home early after planning to be at work for a full day. Or, if they punch in five minutes late, they could get written up. These rigid environments are very flexible from the employer's perspective, but not at all useful to the employee."

 

After analyzing the data, the researchers found that overall, less workplace flexibility was associated with shorter child sleep time. An increase in workplace flexibility from when a mother's child was five to when he or she was nine was associated with children sticking to their bedtimes better and a 44 percent lower chance of the child having trouble getting to sleep.

 

Lee said that in addition to having implications for workplace practices, the findings also suggest ways healthcare workers can help families.

 

"Previous research has shown that early bedtime practices can have long-term influences on individual sleep," Lee said. "Clinicians and practitioners could consider speaking with working mothers about how to improve their children's bedtime routines. Future research could also continue to identify other modifiable factors linking parents' work and child sleep, so we can intervene to promote sleep health from childhood and to reduce future sleep health disparities."

 

Buxton and colleagues are continuing this research to the next study, in the transition to young adulthood, how sleep health trajectories may contribute to the emergence and persistence of modifiable disparities in sleep and well-being.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181015105448.htm

Abnormal vision in childhood can affect brain functions

October 12, 2018

Science Daily/University of Waterloo

A research team has discovered that abnormal vision in childhood can affect the development of higher-level brain areas responsible for things such as attention.

 

The researchers from the University of Waterloo, University of British Columbia, and the University of Auckland uncovered differences in how the brain processes visual information in patients with various types of lazy eye. In doing so, they are the first to demonstrate that the brain can divert attention away from a lazy eye when both eyes are open.

 

"Current treatments for lazy eye primarily target the early stages of visual processing within the brain," said Ben Thompson, a professor in Waterloo's School of Optometry and Vision Science."The results from this study show us that new treatments should also target higher-level processes such as attention."

 

Lazy eye, known as amblyopia, is a loss of vision that originates in the brain, typically when a child develops an eye turn (strabismic type) or a substantial difference in refractive error between the eyes (anisometropic type). The unequal input causes the brain to ignore information from the weaker eye during brain development. Conventionally, eyecare practitioners treated the different types of lazy eye similarly, primarily because the visual impairments experienced appeared to be the same.

 

In this study lead researcher, Amy Chow, and her colleagues asked patients to pay attention to a specific set of dots among a group of distracting dots, all moving on a computer screen. However, the tracked dots were only visible in one eye (the weaker eye) while the distracting dots were visible only to the other eye (the stronger eye).

 

For people with normal vision as well as those with anisometropic amblyopia, showing different images between the two eyes didn't matter. Both groups were able to overcome the distracting interference and track the dots successfully. Patients with strabismic amblyopia, on the other hand, were unable to direct their attention to the target dots when they were visible to only the weaker eye.

 

"One of the underlying reasons why some people with lazy eye have poor vision comes down to how the brain suppresses an eye," said Chow, a PhD student at the School of Optometry and Vision Science at Waterloo. "The poorer-seeing eye is open, the retina is healthy and sending information through to the brain, yet that information does not reach conscious awareness as the brain chooses not to use it."

 

About thirty-five thousand Canadians -- one per cent of the population -- have strabismic amblyopia. The condition can be corrected in childhood, but treatment efficacy can be highly variable. These findings are a stepping stone in developing better treatments of lazy eye.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181012180850.htm

How parenting affects antisocial behaviors in children

October 11, 2018

Science Daily/University of Pennsylvania

In a recent study of the parental caregiving environment, researchers found that within identical twin pairs, the child who experienced harsher behavior and less parental warmth was at a greater risk for developing antisocial behaviors.

 

Less parental warmth and more harshness in the home environment affect how aggressive children become and whether they lack empathy and a moral compass, a set of characteristics known as callous-unemotional (CU) traits, according to findings from the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Michigan, and Michigan State University. The work was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

 

In a study of 227 identical twin pairs lead by Penn psychologist Rebecca Waller, the research team analyzed small differences in the parenting that each twin experienced to determine whether these differences predicted the likelihood of antisocial behaviors emerging. They learned that the twin who experienced stricter or harsher treatment and less emotional warmth from parents had a greater chance of showing aggression and CU traits.

 

"Some of the early work on callous-unemotional traits focused on their biological bases, like genetics and the brain, making the argument that these traits develop regardless of what is happening in a child's environment, that parenting doesn't matter," says Waller, an assistant professor in Penn's Department of Psychology. "We felt there must be something we could change in the environment that might prevent a susceptible child from going down the pathway to more severe antisocial behavior."

 

The work is the latest in a series of studies from Waller and colleagues using observation to assess a variety of aspects of parenting. The initial research, which considered a biological parent and child, confirmed that parental warmth plays a significant role in whether CU traits materialize.

 

A subsequent adoption study, of parents and children who were not biologically related, turned up consistent results. "We couldn't blame that on genetics because these children don't share genes with their parents," Waller says. "But it still didn't rule out the possibility that something about the child's genetic characteristics was evoking certain reactions from the adoptive parent." In other words, a parent who is warm and positive may have a hard time maintaining those behaviors if the child never reciprocates.

 

Knowing this led Waller and University of Michigan psychologist Luke Hyde to team with S. Alexandra Burt, co-director of the Michigan State University Twin Registry. Using 6- to 11-year-old participants from a large, ongoing study of twins that Burt directs, the team turned its attention to identical twins.

 

For 454 children (227 sets of identical twins), parents completed a 50-item questionnaire about the home environment. They also established their harshness and warmth levels by rating 24 statements such as "I often lose my temper with my child" and "My child knows I love him/her." The researchers assessed child behavior by asking the mother to report on 35 traits related to aggression and CU traits.

 

"The study convincingly shows that parenting -- and not just genes -- contributes to the development of risky callous-unemotional traits," says Hyde, an associate professor in Michigan's Department of Psychology. "Because identical twins have the same DNA, we can be more sure that the differences in parenting the twins received affects the development of these traits."

 

According to Waller, a potential next step is to turn these findings into useable interventions for families trying to prevent a child from developing such traits or to improve troubling behaviors that have already begun.

 

"From a real-world standpoint, creating interventions that work practically and are actually able to change behaviors in different types of families is complicated," Waller says. "But these results show that small differences in how parents care for their children matters. Our focus now is on adapting already-successful parenting programs to include specific interventions focused on callous-unemotional traits as well."

 

Though an intervention with parents could succeed, Hyde and colleagues stress that the work isn't blaming parents for their child's CU or aggressive behaviors. "Our previous work with adopted children also showed that genes do matter, and so there is a back and forth," he says. "Some children may be more difficult to parent. The most important message is that treatments that work with parents likely can help, even for the most at-risk children."

 

The researchers acknowledge some limitations to the study, for example that it skews heavily toward two-parent families, meaning the findings may not be as generalizable to single-parent homes. It also assesses parenting measures and twin behaviors based solely on parenting reports.

 

Yet despite these drawbacks, the researchers say the work broadens the understanding of how different forms of antisocial behavior, like aggression and callous-unemotional traits, emerge. "This provides strong evidence that parenting is also important in the development of callous-unemotional traits," Hyde says. "The good news is we know that treatments can help parents who may need extra support with children struggling with these dangerous behaviors."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181011173131.htm

Higher levels of urinary fluoride associated with ADHD in children

October 10, 2018

Science Daily/University of Toronto

Higher levels of urinary fluoride during pregnancy are associated with more ADHD-like symptoms in school-age children.

 

"Our findings are consistent with a growing body of evidence suggesting that the growing fetal nervous system may be negatively affected by higher levels of fluoride exposure," said Dr. Morteza Bashash, the study's lead author and researcher at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

 

The study, "Prenatal Fluoride Exposure and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Symptoms in Children at 6-12 Years of Age in Mexico City," published today in Environment International, analyzed data from 213 mother-child pairs in Mexico City that were part of the Early Life Exposures in Mexico to Environmental Toxicants (ELEMENT) project, which recruited pregnant women from 1994 to 2005 and has continued to follow the women and their children ever since.

 

Tap water and dental products have been fluoridated in communities in Canada and the United States (as well as milk and table salt in some other countries) by varying amounts for more than 60 years to prevent cavities. In recent years, fierce debate over the safety of water fluoridation -- particularly for children's developing brains -- has fueled researchers to explore the issue and provide evidence to inform national drinking water standards.

 

The research team -- including experts from the University of Toronto, York University, the National Institute of Public Health of Mexico, University of Michigan, Indiana University, the University of Washington and Harvard School of Public Health -- analyzed urine samples that had been obtained from mothers during pregnancy and from their children between six and 12 years of age to reconstruct personal measures of fluoride exposure for both mother and child.

 

The researchers then analyzed how levels of fluoride in urine related to the child's performance on a variety of tests and questionnaires that measure inattention and hyperactivity, and provide overall scores related to ADHD. Analyses were adjusted for other factors known to impact neurodevelopment, such as gestational age at birth, birthweight, birth order, sex, maternal marital status, smoking history, age at delivery, education, socioeconomic status and lead exposure.

 

"Our findings show that children with elevated prenatal exposure to fluoride were more likely to show symptoms of ADHD as reported by parents. Prenatal fluoride exposure was more strongly associated with inattentive behaviours and cognitive problems, but not with hyperactivity," said Bashash.

 

This work builds off of previous research the team published on this population demonstrating that higher levels of urine fluoride during pregnancy are associated with lower scores on tests of IQ and cognition in the school-age children.

 

ADHD is the most common psychiatric disorder diagnosed in childhood, affecting between five and nine per cent of all school-aged children.

 

"The symptoms of ADHD often persist into adulthood and can be impairing in daily life," said Christine Till, Associate Professor of Psychology at York University and co-author on the study.

 

"If we can understand the reasons behind this association, we can then begin to develop preventive strategies to mitigate the risk," said Till, who is also the principal investigator of another National Institutes of Health-funded grant examining fluoride exposure in a large Canadian sample of pregnant women.

 

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), funded this study.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181010132343.htm

More young people are choosing not to drink alcohol

October 9, 2018

Science Daily/BioMed Central

Young people in England aren't just drinking less alcohol -- a new study shows that more of them are never taking up alcohol at all, and that the increase is widespread among young people.

 

Researchers at University College London analysed data from the annual Health Survey for England and found that the proportion of 16-24 year olds who don't drink alcohol has increased from 18% in 2005 to 29% in 2015.

 

The authors found this trend to be largely due to an increasing number of people who had never been drinkers, from 9% in 2005 to 17% in 2015. There were also significant decreases in the number of young people who drank above recommended limits (from 43% to 28%) or who binge drank (27% to 18%). More young people were also engaging in weekly abstinence (from 35% to 50%)

 

Dr Linda Ng Fat, corresponding author of the study said: "Increases in non-drinking among young people were found across a broad range of groups, including those living in northern or southern regions of England, among the white population, those in full-time education, in employment and across all social classes and healthier groups. That the increase in non-drinking was found across many different groups suggests that non-drinking may becoming more mainstream among young people which could be caused by cultural factors."

 

Dr Ng Fat said: "These trends are to be welcomed from a public-health standpoint. Factors influencing the shift away from drinking should be capitalised on going forward to ensure that healthier drinking behaviours in young people continue to be encouraged."

 

Dr Linda Ng Fat added: "The increase in young people who choose not to drink alcohol suggests that this behaviour maybe becoming more acceptable, whereas risky behaviours such as binge drinking may be becoming less normalised."

 

Increases in non-drinking however were not found among ethnic minorities, those with poor mental health and smokers suggesting that the risky behaviours of smoking and alcohol continue to cluster.

 

The researchers examined data on 9,699 people aged 16-24 years collected as part of the Health Survey for England 2005-2015, an annual, cross-sectional, nationally representative survey looking at changes in the health and lifestyles of people across England. The authors analysed the proportion of non-drinkers among social demographic and health sub-groups, along with alcohol units consumed by those that did drink and levels of binge drinking.

 

The authors caution that the cross-sectional, observational nature of this study does not allow for conclusions about cause and effect.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181009210727.htm

Teen cannabis use is not without risk to cognitive development

October 3, 2018

Science Daily/Université de Montréal

A new study confirms that cannabis use is related to impaired and lasting effects on adolescent cognitive development.

 

Although studies have shown that alcohol and cannabis misuse are related to impaired cognition in youth, previous studies were not designed to understand this relationship and differentiate whether cannabis use was causal or consequential to cognitive impairment. A new study by researchers at CHU Sainte-Justine and Université de Montréal, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, shows that beyond the role of cognition in vulnerability to substance use, the concurrent and lasting effects of adolescent cannabis use can be observed on important cognitive functions and appear to be more pronounced than those observed for alcohol.

 

Beyond acute intoxicating effects, alcohol and cannabis misuse has been associated with impairments in learning, memory, attention and decision-making, as well as with lower academic performance. "While many studies have reported group differences in cognitive performance between young users and non-users, what had yet to be established was the causal and lasting effects of teen substance use on cognitive development," said co-author and PhD student at Université de Montréal, Jean-François G. Morin. Senior author and investigator Dr. Patricia Conrod, from the Department of Psychiatry at Université de Montréal, added that "very few studies are designed to look at this question from a developmental perspective. Our study is unique in that it followed a large sample of high school students from 7th to 10th grade using cognitive and substance-use measures. Using this big-data approach, we were able to model the complex nature of the relationship between these sets of variables."

 

To understand the relationship between alcohol, cannabis use and cognitive development among adolescents at all levels of consumption (abstinent, occasional consumer or high consumer), the research team followed a sample of 3,826 Canadian adolescents over a period of four years. Using a developmentally sensitive design, the authors investigated relationships between year-to-year changes in substance use and cognitive development across a number of cognitive domains, such as recall memory, perceptual reasoning, inhibition and working memory. Multi-level regression models were used to simultaneously test vulnerability and concurrent and lasting effects on each cognitive domain. The study found that vulnerability to cannabis and alcohol use in adolescence was associated with generally lower performance on all cognitive domains.

 

"However, further increases in cannabis use, but not alcohol consumption, showed additional concurrent and lagged effects on cognitive functions, such as perceptual reasoning, memory recall, working memory and inhibitory control," Conrod said. "Of particular concern was the finding that cannabis use was associated with lasting effects on a measure of inhibitory control, which is a risk factor for other addictive behaviours, and might explain why early onset cannabis use is a risk factor for other addictions." Morin added: "Some of these effects are even more pronounced when consumption begins earlier in adolescence."

 

In a context where policies and attitudes regarding substance use are being reconsidered, this research highlights the importance of protecting youth from the adverse effects of consumption through greater investment in drug-prevention programs.

 

"It will be important to conduct similar analyses with this cohort or similar cohorts as they transition to young adulthood, when alcohol and cannabis use become more severe," Conrod said. "This might be particularly relevant for alcohol effects: while this study did not detect effects of teen alcohol consumption on cognitive development, the neurotoxic effects may be observable in specific subgroups differentiated based on the level of consumption, gender or age." Morin added: "We also want to identify if these effects on brain development are related to other difficulties such as poor academic performance, neuroanatomical damage, and the risk of future addiction or mental health disorders."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181003090325.htm

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