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March 18, 2011, 10:22 PM CT

Brain research could hold key to alcohol problems

Brain research could hold key to alcohol problems
Scientists are using an innovative technique that combines brain stimulation and the measure of brain activity to investigate difficulties linked to giving up alcohol, with the hope of developing more effective therapies for alcohol dependence.

Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre, in collaboration with Turning Point Alcohol & Drug Centre, has developed a new non-invasive technique, which it hopes will directly measure activity in the frontal brain regions.

Frontal brain regions are important for making decisions and for stopping behaviours that cause us harm.

Turning Point Alcohol & Drug Centre Director, Professor Dan Lubman, said it was important to learn as much as possible about the brain so effective therapies for the therapy of alcohol dependence could be developed.

"Alcohol is a significant health issue in our community and a better understanding of the brain will lead to improved screening and therapy programs," Professor Lubman said.

Until recently, directly investigating activity in the frontal brain region and the relationship between the brain and a person's ability to stop drinking has been extremely difficult.

However, Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre has developed a new technique which allows scientists to directly stimulate and measure frontal brain activity in patients with alcohol problems.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


March 17, 2011, 10:55 PM CT

Want more zest for life?

Want more zest for life?
Researchers at Texas A&M and Texas State found that gardening contributes to increased life satisfaction in older adults.

Credit: Photo courtesy of Tina Marie (Waliczek) Cade

Does gardening contribute to quality of life and increased wellness for elderly adults? Scientists from the Texas A&M and Texas State Universities asked these questions in a survey of people aged 50 and older. The survey revealed some compelling reasons for elderly adults to get themselves out in the garden.

Aime Sommerfeld, Jayne Zajicek, and Tina Waliczek designed a questionnaire to investigate older adult gardeners' and nongardeners' perceptions of personal life satisfaction and levels of physical activity. As per Sommerfeld, main author of the study published in HortTechnology: "The primary focus of the study was to determine if gardening had a positive impact on perceptions of quality of life and levels of physical activity of elderly adults when compared with nongardeners".

A 2007 Administration on Aging report titled A Profile of Older Americans noted that one in every eight Americans is considered an "older adult" (65+ years). The older adult population is at greater risk for disease as a result of decreased levels of exercise and poor dietary and/or lifestyle choices; a combination of moderate physical activity and increased consumption of fruit and vegetables has been reported to dramatically reduce an adult's risk for a number of chronic diseases. "Gardening is one of the most popular home-based leisure activities in the United States and has been reported as the second most common leisure activity, after walking, of adults older than age 65 years", the scientists noted.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


March 17, 2011, 10:44 PM CT

Free will and determinism through test methods

Free will and determinism through test methods
"The dilemma is how do we reconcile how we normally think about causal explanation with this intuition that we have that our decisions are not just the product of these inevitable causal chains," said Shaun Nichols.
UA philosophy professor Shaun Nichols examines the notions of free will and determinism through test methods used in social sciences.

Philosophers have argued for centuries, millennia actually, about whether our lives are guided by our own free will or are predetermined as the result of a continuous chain of events over which we have no control.

On the one hand, it seems like everything that happens has come kind of causal explanation; conversely, when we make decisions, it seems to us like we have the free will to make different decisions.

Most people seem to favor free will, and while a number of, across a range of cultures, reject what is referred to as determinism, they remain conflicted over the role of personal responsibility in situations that require moral judgements, said Shaun Nichols, a professor of philosophy and cognitive science at the University of Arizona.

Nichols is part of a growing number of scientists who are gaining insights into this philosophical dilemma by applying experimental methods usually used by developmental psychology experts and other social scientists. His latest findings ("Experimental Philosophy and the Problem of Free Will") are reported in the current issue of the journal Science.

Until recently, these points have been dissected using "careful and sustained thought, sharpened by dialogue with fellow philosophers," Nichols said.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


March 15, 2011, 10:57 PM CT

Extended Parental Support as a Safety Net

Extended Parental Support as a Safety Net
A newly released study from the Journal of Marriage and Family shows that contrary to popular anxieties about slacker young adults who refuse to grow up, or indulgent parents who stifle their adult children's development by continuing to support them, there is evidence that parental assistance in early adulthood promotes progress toward autonomy and self-reliance.

Study author Teresa Swartz, "The fact that young people depend so heavily upon their parents well beyond the age when most people from earlier generations had already started families and had dependable jobs has triggered a great deal of public anxiety over whether these trends signal young adult immaturity and stunted development. The larger social trends in delaying family formation appears to be one reason for the extended dependence upon parents. Today, the road to adulthood is much longer and more arduous than it was thirty years ago".

The scientists collected longitudinal data to examine the conditions under which young adults are more likely to receive financial support for living expenses, or to live in the parental home. Eventhough almost half of the respondents received either money for living expenses or lived with their parents (or both) in their mid-twenties, only 10-15% received financial or housing help when in their early 30s. The likelihood of receiving financial help decreased 15% each year, and the likelihood of living with parents decreased by 18% each year. Swartz, "These results indicate that young people do eventually become independent of parents as they grow older".........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


March 15, 2011, 10:24 PM CT

Chasing the pot of gold

Chasing the pot of gold
Approximately two million adults in the United States meet criteria for pathological gambling, and another four to six million are considered problem gamblers, as per the National Council on Problem Gambling. A study by scientists at Wayne State University reveals that gambling addiction therapy is not one-size-fits-all, but it is difficult to predict which style of therapy is best for the various forms of gambling addiction.

As per David M. Ledgerwood, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Wayne State University, there appears to be up to three different subtypes of people with serious gambling problems. One group, emotionally vulnerable (EV) gamblers, had higher psychiatric and gambling severity and were more likely to have a parent with psychiatric problems as in comparison to another subtype, behaviorally conditioned (BC) gamblers. BC gamblers are thought to start gambling because they get caught up in elements of reward linked to the game, rather than to soothe emotional problems.

"In addition, we observed that antisocial impulsive (AI) gamblers also had elevated gambling and psychiatric severity when in comparison to BC gamblers," said Ledgerwood. "This group was most likely to have antisocial personality disorders, a history of substance abuse therapy, and a parent with substance abuse or gambling problems".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


March 15, 2011, 7:32 AM CT

Parental monitoring of opposite-gender

Parental monitoring of opposite-gender
Young adults whose parents monitor their social interactions appears to be less likely to display impulsive behavior traits and to have alcohol-related problems, a newly released study suggests. The level of monitoring is associated with parenting style, and the link is stronger with the parent of the opposite gender.

This study is one of the first to explore the link between parenting style and parental monitoring, as well as to explore the monitoring style of each parent individually, says Julie A. Patock-Peckham, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience at Baylor University and one of the study authors.

"While there's a plethora of research showing that low parental monitoring contributes to risky behavior, very few scientists have examined the effects of parental monitoring separated out by mothers and fathers," she says. "It's normally measured just with the word 'parent.'".

The study involved 581 college students from the Missouri University of Science and Technology and San Diego State University. Participating students completed a questionnaire that addressed the parenting styles of both their mothers and fathers, perceptions of mothers' and fathers' knowledge of their friendships and social plans, and questions about their own impulsiveness and alcohol-related problems.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


March 13, 2011, 11:09 AM CT

Secrets to Long life

Secrets to Long life
Howard Friedman
Good advice for a long life? As it turns out, no. In a groundbreaking study of personality as a predictor of longevity, University of California, Riverside scientists found just the opposite.

"It's surprising just how often common assumptions - by both researchers and the media - are wrong," said Howard S. Friedman, distinguished professor of psychology who led the 20-year study.

Friedman and Leslie R. Martin , a 1996 UCR alumna (Ph.D.) and staff researchers, have published those findings in "The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study" (Hudson Street Press, March 2011).

Friedman and Martin examined, refined and supplemented data gathered by the late Stanford University psychology expert Louis Terman and subsequent scientists on more than 1,500 bright children who were about 10 years old when they were first studied in 1921. "Probably our most amazing finding was that personality characteristics and social relations from childhood can predict one's risk of dying decades later," Friedman concluded.

The Longevity Project, as the study became known, followed the children through their lives, collecting information that included family histories and relationships, teacher and parent ratings of personality, hobbies, pet ownership, job success, education levels, military service and numerous other details.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


March 1, 2011, 9:58 PM CT

Happiness increases lifespan

Happiness increases lifespan
A review of more than 160 studies of human and animal subjects has found "clear and compelling evidence" that - all else being equal - happy people tend to live longer and experience better health than their unhappy peers.

The study, in the journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, is the most comprehensive review so far of the evidence linking happiness to health outcomes. Its main author, University of Illinois professor emeritus of psychology Ed Diener, who also is a senior scientist for the Gallup Organization, of Princeton, N.J., analyzed long-term studies of human subjects, experimental human and animal trials, and studies that evaluate the health status of people stressed by natural events.

"We evaluated eight different types of studies," Diener said. "And the general conclusion from each type of study is that your subjective well-being - that is, feeling positive about your life, not stressed out, not depressed - contributes to both longevity and better health among healthy populations".

A study that followed nearly 5,000 university students for more than 40 years, for example, observed that those who were most pessimistic as students tended to die younger than their peers. An even longer-term study that followed 180 Catholic nuns from early adulthood to old age observed that those who wrote positive autobiographies in their early 20s tended to outlive those who wrote more negative accounts of their young lives.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


March 1, 2011, 9:52 PM CT

Abstaining Without Thinking About It

Abstaining Without Thinking About It
Alcoholism is a tough addiction to kick. Eventually, most people return to drinking. But some Dutch and German psychological researchers have tested a short-term regime that promises to help alcoholics stay sober. Their study is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association of Psychological Science.

Heavy drinkers tend to behave impulsively in response to temptation. Meanwhile, their "reflective," or controlled, responses-the thoughts that would help them resist drinking-are often weak. Most therapies, including Cognitive Behavior Therapy, primarily address the reflective responses. "They deal with the reasons and strategies" for sobriety, said University of Amsterdam experimental psychology expert Reinout W. Wiers, the study's main author. To boost therapy success, his team developed cognitive-bias modification, or CBM, which, for the first time, "tries to turn around those impulsive responses".

This newly developed CBM variety employs video-game-like "approach-avoidance tasks": pushing or pulling a joystick in response to images on a screen. Pulling zooms in on the image, as if the participant were "approaching" it. Pushing zooms out, in "avoidance." The team's earlier studies observed that heavier drinkers, shown images of alcoholic beverages or soft drinks, are faster to "pull" the alcohol than lighter drinkers-but CBM can turn this "approach bias" into an "avoidance bias".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


February 22, 2011, 7:33 AM CT

Using EEGs to diagnose autism

Using EEGs to diagnose autism
A computational physicist and a cognitive neuroscientist at Children's Hospital Boston have come up with the beginnings of a noninvasive test to evaluate an infant's autism risk. It combines the standard electroencephalogram (EEG), which records electrical activity in the brain, with machine-learning algorithms. In a pilot study, their system had 80 percent accuracy in distinguishing between 9-month-old infants known to be at high risk for autism from controls of the same age.

Eventhough this work, published February 22 in the online open-access journal BMC Medicine, requires validation and refinement, it suggests a safe, practical way of identifying infants at high risk for developing autism by capturing very early differences in brain organization and function. This would allow parents to begin behavioral interventions one to two years before autism can be diagnosed through traditional behavioral testing.

"Electrical activity produced by the brain has a lot more information than we realized," says William Bosl, PhD, a neuroinformatics researcher in the Children's Hospital Informatics Program. "Computer algorithms can pick out patterns in those squiggly lines that the eye can't see".

Bosl, Charles A. Nelson, PhD, Research Director of the Developmental Medicine Center at Children's, and his colleagues recorded resting EEG signals from 79 babies 6 to 24 months of age participating in a larger study aimed at finding very early risk markers of autism. Forty-six infants had an older sibling with a confirmed diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD); the other 33 had no family history of ASDs.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
Too little evidence exists to recommend or rule out estrogen as a treatment for schizophrenia in women, a new review of studies finds.People diagnosed with schizophrenia suffer distorted perceptions of reality and hallucinations. Today, estrogen is strictly an experimental therapy for the psychotic symptoms associated with the mental illness.

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