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December 9, 2010, 7:47 AM CT

Autism breakthrough

Autism breakthrough
Eastern Virginia Medical School scientists have identified a potential novel therapy strategy for the social impairment of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), an aspect of the condition that has a profound impact on quality of life.

"Persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders are either disinterested in social interactions or find them unpleasant. They often don't understand what other people are thinking or feeling and misinterpret social cues," said Stephen I. Deutsch, MD, PhD, the Ann Robinson Chair and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. "Sadly, persons with autism spectrum disorders are often painfully aware of their limited sociability, which can lead to profound feelings of sadness and frustration".

As part of their research, EVMS researchers verified that a specific mouse strain, known as the BALB/c mouse, is a valid animal model of the limited sociability seen in persons with ASD. In the presence of another mouse, BALB/c mice move as far away as possible and do not interact as normal mice do just like people with autism often avoid making social contact with other people.

This finding gave scientists a way to test whether an existing medicine can alter the function of certain receptors in the brain known to affect sociability and help the animals be more at ease around others. The medicine used, D-Cycloserine, originally was developed to treat tuberculosis, but prior studies showed, by chance, that it might change social behavior. In preliminary studies at EVMS, the medicine appeared to resolve the Balb/c mouse's deficits of sociability; it behaved as a normal mouse would when placed near another.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


December 8, 2010, 7:15 AM CT

Are depressed people too clean?

Are depressed people too clean?
In an effort to pinpoint potential triggers leading to inflammatory responses that eventually contribute to depression, scientists are taking a close look at the immune system of people living in today's cleaner modern society.

Rates of depression in younger people have steadily grown to outnumber rates of depression in the older populations and scientists think it appears to be because of a loss of healthy bacteria.

In an article reported in the recent issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, Emory neuroscientist Charles Raison, MD, and his colleagues say there is mounting evidence that disruptions in ancient relationships with microorganisms in soil, food and the gut may contribute to the increasing rates of depression.

As per the authors, the modern world has become so clean, we are deprived of the bacteria our immune systems came to rely on over long ages to keep inflammation at bay.

To view a video with Dr. Raison: http://bit.ly/wearetooclean.

"We have known for a long time that people with depression, even those who are not sick, have higher levels of inflammation," explains Raison.

"Since ancient times non-malignant microorganisms, some times referred to as 'old friends,' have taught the immune system how to tolerate other harmless microorganisms, and in the process, reduce inflammatory responses that have been associated with the development of most modern illnesses, from cancer to depression".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


December 7, 2010, 7:15 AM CT

Why married men behave better

Why married men behave better
Scientists have long argued that marriage generally reduces illegal and aggressive behaviors in men. It remained unclear, however, if that association was a function of matrimony itself or whether less "antisocial" men were simply more likely to get married.

The answer, as per a newly released study led by a Michigan State University behavior geneticist, may be both.

In the recent issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, online today, S. Alexandra Burt and his colleagues observed that less antisocial men were more likely to get married. Once they were wed, however, the marriage itself appeared to further inhibit antisocial behavior.

"Our results indicate that the reduced rate of antisocial behavior in married men is more complicated than we previously thought," said Burt, associate professor of psychology. "Marriage is generally good for men, at least in terms of reducing antisocial behavior, but the data also indicate that it's not random who enters into the state of marriage".

The study is the first to investigate the effects of marriage on antisocial behavior using a genetically informative twin sample to rule out the effects of genes on these associations. The scientists examined the data of 289 pairs of male twins. The twins were assessed four times, at ages 17, 20, 24 and 29.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


December 7, 2010, 7:11 AM CT

Religion and happiness

Religion and happiness
While the positive connection between religiosity and life satisfaction has long been known, a newly released study in the recent issue of the American Sociological Review reveals religion's "secret ingredient" that makes people happier.

"Our study offers compelling evidence that it is the social aspects of religion rather than theology or spirituality that leads to life satisfaction," said Chaeyoon Lim, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who led the study. "In particular, we find that friendships built in religious congregations are the secret ingredient in religion that makes people happier".

In their study, "Religion, Social Networks, and Life Satisfaction," Lim and co-author Robert D. Putnam, the Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University, use data from the Faith Matters Study, a panel survey of a representative sample of U.S. adults in 2006 and 2007. The panel survey was discussed in detail in the recently published book American Grace by Putnam and David E. Campbell.

As per the study, 33 percent of people who attend religious services every week and have three to five close friends in their congregation report that they are "extremely satisfied" with their lives. "Extremely satisfied" is defined as a 10 on a scale ranging from 1 to 10.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


November 18, 2010, 7:46 AM CT

IQ scores and academic performance iin autism

IQ scores and academic performance iin autism
New data show that a number of children with autism spectrum disorders have greater academic abilities than previously thought. In a study by scientists at the University of Washington, 90 percent of high-functioning children with autism spectrum disorders showed a discrepancy between their IQ score and their performance on reading, spelling and math tests.

"Academic achievement is a potential source of self-worth and source of feeling of mastery that people may not have realized is available to children with autism," said Annette Estes, research assistant professor at the UW's Autism Center.

Improved autism diagnosis and early behavioral interventions have led to more and more children being ranked in the high-functioning range, with average to above average IQs. Up to 70 percent of autistic children are considered high-functioning, though they have significant social communication challenges.

With early interventions that improve social skills and curb problem behaviors, more high-functioning children with autism are able to learn in regular education classrooms. In Estes' study, most of the participants 22 of 30 were in regular education classrooms. The study was published online Nov. 2 in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


November 16, 2010, 7:02 AM CT

Rational family structure dominates

Rational family structure dominates
Couples do not live together for traditional or romantic reasons.

Credit: University of Gothenburg

ntellectual and social. The nuclear family still holds a strong position in Sweden. Some 70 percent of the population live in a nuclear family, shows research from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

A number of families today consist of networks of various people that include a whole host of constellations, without being a nuclear family.

Family scientists are at any rate pleased at the break up of the nuclear family, and the late 20th century is of particular interest to those who specialise in to family research.



Not giving enough


"The number of divorces in Sweden and other countries increased dramatically during the 1960s and 70s. A new form of relationship began to emerge in modern society, with people no longer forming partnerships and living together for traditional or romantic reasons. The new relationship takes a rational approach, where people ask what the relationship is giving them and what they get in exchange emotionally, financially, intellectually and socially. The answer often shows that the relationship is not giving enough in return, which explains the increase in the number of divorces in our part of the world, with reference to research carried out by the English sociologist Anthony Giddens and others," says Thomas Johansson, Professor of education specialising in child and youth studies at the Department of Education, Communication and Learning.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


November 16, 2010, 6:53 AM CT

Stereotyped views in preschoolers

Stereotyped views in preschoolers
Preschool teachers can inadvertently pass on lessons in stereotypes to their students when they highlight gender differences, as per Penn State psychology experts.

A study has observed that when teachers call attention to gender, children are more likely to express stereotyped views of what activities are appropriate for boys and girls and which gender they prefer to play with, said Lynn Liben, Distinguished Professor of psychology, human development and family studies, and education, Penn State.

By highlighting the powerful effect of classroom environments on preschool children's gender-related beliefs and behaviors, the findings have implications for how teachers structure classrooms and interact with children, as per Liben, who worked with Lacey Hilliard, a Penn State graduate student, on the experiment.

"The biggest impact of the study and the findings seems to be that classroom structure really matters," said Liben. "It shows that if teachers emphasize gender--in any way-- it has amazingly profound effects on how children interact with each other".

The researchers, who published their results in the current issue of Child Development, reviewed 57, 3- to 5-year-olds at two preschools over a two-week period. The two schools were similar in class size, teacher-child ratio and populations served. In one set of classrooms, teachers were asked to avoid making divisions by sex, which was the policy of the preschool. In the other, teachers were asked to use gendered language and divisions, such as lining children up by gender and asking boys and girls to post their work on separate bulletin boards, but still avoid making statements comparing boys and girls or fostering competition between them. For example, they were asked to avoid saying, "Who can be quieter: boys or girls?".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


November 12, 2010, 7:08 AM CT

Yoga's ability to improve mood and lessen anxiety

Yoga's ability to improve mood and lessen anxiety
New Rochelle, NY, November 11, 2010Yoga has a greater positive effect on a person's mood and anxiety level than walking and other forms of exercise, which appears to be due to higher levels of the brain chemical GABA as per an article in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, a peer-evaluated journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. The article is available free online.

Yoga has been shown to increase the level of gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, a chemical in the brain that helps to regulate nerve activity. GABA activity is reduced in people with mood and anxiety disorders, and drugs that increase GABA activity are usually prescribed to improve mood and decrease anxiety.

Tying all of these observations together, the study by Chris Streeter, MD, from Boston University School of Medicine (Massachusetts) and his colleagues demonstrates that increased GABA levels measured after a session of yoga postures are linked to improved mood and decreased anxiety. Their findings establish a new link between yoga, higher levels of GABA in the thalamus, and improvements in mood and anxiety based on psychological evaluations. The authors suggest that the practice of yoga stimulates specific brain areas, thereby giving rise to changes in endogenous antidepressant neurotransmitters such as GABA.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


November 11, 2010, 7:38 AM CT

Stress on Clinicians Can Be Measured

Stress on Clinicians Can Be Measured
It's no surprise that being a doctor is a very stressful job and carries a lot of responsibility with it.

But two new studies from scientists at the University of Cincinnati indicate that the stressors arising from work in the clinic, where physicians are seeing patients one-on-one, can effectively be measured with hopes of improving patient care and doctor job satisfaction.

Ronnie Horner, PhD, and C. Jeff Jacobson, PhD, both scientists in the department of public health sciences, say their studies, reported in the online editions of the journal Medical Care on Oct. 29 and Nov. 9, showed that certain known measurement tools for assessing non-clinical work intensity can also be used to determine doctor work intensity in clinical settings.

"Work intensity for physicians during office-based patient care affects quality of care and patient safety as well as job satisfaction and reimbursement," says Horner. "There are existing intensity measures that have been used in prior studies of the work environment, but their validity in a clinical office setting hasn't been established".

Horner, Jerzy Szaflarski, MD, PhD, a researcher in the department of neurology and co-author on Horner's study, and Jacobson studied two main instruments: the NASA-Task Load Index (NASA-TLX) and the Subjective Workload Evaluation Technique (SWAT).........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


November 11, 2010, 7:12 AM CT

Pleasurable Behaviors Reduce Stress

Pleasurable Behaviors Reduce Stress
Whether it's food or sex, pleasurable activity provides more than just pleasure, University of Cincinnati (UC) scientists say. It actually reduces stress by inhibiting anxiety responses in the brain.

The findings were published online Nov. 8, 2010, ahead of print in PNAS, the official journal of the National Academy of Sciences.

Experiments designed by Yvonne Ulrich-Lai, PhD, research assistant professor, James Herman, PhD, director of the Laboratory of Stress Neurobiology and professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at UC, and his colleagues also indicated that the reduced-stress effects continued for at least seven days, suggesting a long-term benefit.

"These findings give us a clearer understanding of the motivation for consuming 'comfort food' during times of stress," says Ulrich-Lai. "But it's important to note that, based on our findings, even small amounts of pleasurable foods can reduce the effects of stress".

The scientists provided rats twice daily access to a sugar solution for two weeks, then tested the rats' physiological and behavioral responses to stress. Compared with controls, rats with access to sugar exhibited reduced heart rate and stress hormone levels while placed in ventilated restraint tubes and were more willing to explore an unfamiliar environment and socially interact with other rats.........

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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