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October 27, 2008, 5:33 AM CT

Stress may make you itch

Stress may make you itch
Gera number of Current research suggests that stress may activate immune cells in your skin, resulting in inflammatory skin disease. The related report by Joachim et al., "Stress-induced Neurogenic Inflammation in Murine Skin Skews Dendritic Cells towards Maturation and Migration: Key role of ICAM-1/LFA-1 interactions," appears in the recent issue of The American Journal of Pathology

Skin provides the first level of defense to infection, serving not only as a physical barrier, but also as a site for white blood cells to attack invading bacteria and viruses. The immune cells in skin can over-react, however, resulting in inflammatory skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis and psoriasis.

Stress can trigger an outbreak in patients suffering from inflammatory skin conditions. This cross talk between stress perception, which involves the brain, and the skin is mediated the through the "brain-skin connection". Yet, little is know about the means by which stress aggravates skin diseases.

Scientists lead by Dr. Petra Arck of Charit, University of Medicine Berlin and McMaster University in Canada, hypothesized that stress could exacerbate skin disease by increasing the number of immune cells in the skin. To test this hypothesis, they exposed mice to sound stress. Dr. Arck's group observed that this stress challenge resulted in higher numbers of mature white blood cells in the skin. Furthermore, blocking the function of two proteins that attract immune cells to the skin, LFA-1 and ICAM-1, prevented the stress-induced increase in white blood cells in the skin.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


October 23, 2008, 8:52 PM CT

Hypnosis can induce synesthesia

Hypnosis can induce synesthesia
Hypnosis can induce "synesthetic" experiences where one sense triggers the involuntary use of another within an average brain, as per a new study in the journal Psychological Science, the premiere publication of the Association for Psychological Society.

The findings suggests that people with synesthesia, contrary to popular belief, do not necessarily have extra connections in their brain; rather, their brains may simply do more 'cross talking' which can be induced by changing inhibitory processes in the average brain.

The research, "Induced cross-modal synesthetic experience without abnormal neuronal connections," was conducted by an international group that includes Cohen Kadosh, previously a doctoral student at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev under the supervision of Prof. Avishai Henik from BGU's Department of Psychology and now at the University College London (UCL); Andres Catena from the University of Granada, Spain; Vincent Walsh from the UCL; and Luis J. Fuentes from University of Murcia, Spain.

People living with synesthesia (known as synesthetes) experience abnormal interactions between the senses. Digit-color synesthesia, for instance, will experience certain numbers in specific colors (for example, they might experience the number seven as red). A possible reason put forward for this phenomenon is the existence of extra connections between brain areas in synesthesia, but this new study suggests otherwise.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


October 22, 2008, 10:38 PM CT

high-dose hormone treatment might reduce risk for PTSD

high-dose hormone treatment might reduce risk for PTSD
Philadelphia, PA, October 22, 2008 Cortisol helps our bodies cope with stress, but what about its effects on the brain? A new study by Cohen and his colleagues, appearing in the October 15th issue of Biological Psychiatry, suggests that the answer to this question is complex. In an animal model of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), high doses of a cortisol-related substance, corticosterone, prevented negative consequences of stress exposure, including increased startle response and behavioral freezing when exposed to reminders of the stress. However, low-dose corticosterone potentiated these responses. This finding suggests that corticosterone levels may influence both vulnerability and resilience in a dose-dependent manner through its involvement in memory processes.

One of the complexities in understanding PTSD is the context-dependency of adaptation. In some situations, for example following a car accident in an otherwise secure community, one objective of therapy is to restore a sense of normalcy and control of one's life. Within this context, the high-dose corticosterone would seem to be the indicated therapy. However, one could imagine scenarios where hypervigilance and heightened emotional reactivity could be adaptive, perhaps in a combat zone. In that case, the lower and more typical corticosterone levels might help soldiers adapt to the continuing risks of combat. But, people do not spend their lives in a single context. "In the case of helping soldiers adjust to the stress of war, we have to think both short-term and long-term, to help soldiers adjust to combat, but also to help them return from combat to resume peacetime life. Thus, we need further guidance from animal research about how to help soldiers adjust flexibly across contexts, from the battlefield to the breakfast table," as explained by John H. Krystal, M.D., Editor of Biological Psychiatry and affiliated with both Yale University School of Medicine and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


October 22, 2008, 10:37 PM CT

Developing depression after a heart attack

Developing depression after a heart attack
Science has found a number of links between depression and other serious medical illnesses, such as cancer, stroke, diabetes, and heart disease. For example, people who develop depression following a heart attack (myocardial infarction) or chest pain (angina) have an elevated risk of cardiac death or hospital readmission over the following year. In a new study scheduled for publication in the October 15th issue of Biological Psychiatry, scientists report that only episodes of depression that commenced after the coronary event were linked to increased cardiac-related morbidity and mortality, but that this increased risk was substantial.

The authors recruited patients hospitalized for ACS, and reviewed them for both lifetime and current depression. Patients were then followed for one year, with additional assessments of depression and cardiac health. Specifically, they discovered that cardiovascular outcome was not linked to previous or existing depression at the time of hospitalization. In contrast, even after controlling for traditional cardiac risk factors such as age, gender, and smoking status, depression that developed in the month after the ACS event increased the odds of cardiac readmission or death by 7 times.

John H. Krystal, M.D., Editor of Biological Psychiatry and affiliated with both Yale University School of Medicine and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, comments, "Depression may be a 'canary in the coal mine,' a relatively early sign of an inflammatory disease process that contributes to coronary artery disease and other medical illnesses." He adds, "The current study suggests that depression may be heterogeneous with respect to its association with inflammatory disease processes, so it will be very important to develop biomarkers, i.e., objective and quantitative tests that can identify the subtype of depression that is a component of systemic disease processes." Senior authors Gordon Parker and Catherine Owen further discuss: "If confirmed, [this finding] has the potential to greatly enhance the ability of health professionals to identify and allocate resources to those patients who are at the greatest risk. This finding also has the potential to shed light on the mechanisms by which post-ACS depression is linked to reduced survival; an area that is still very poorly understood." .........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


October 21, 2008, 9:09 PM CT

Link between health-related behaviors and grades

Link between health-related behaviors and grades
Lack of sleep, excessive television/computer screen time, stress, gambling, alcohol and tobacco use and other health-related issues are taking a toll on college students' academic performance, as per a research studyreleased by the University of Minnesota Boynton Health Service.

"Our study shows that there is a direct link between college students' health and their academic achievement. This is the first time that anything like this has been published where Grade Point Average is associated with all these behaviors," said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, the director and chief health officer of the University of Minnesota Boynton Health Service. To view a video about the study, see.

http://www1.umn.edu/urelate/newsservice/Multimedia_Videos/boynton_08.htm.

Today's report, "Health and Academic Performance: Minnesota Undergraduate Students," is part of one of the most comprehensive studies of college students' health in the nation. About 24,000 students from 14 Minnesota colleges and universities were randomly selected to participate in this study and 9,931 completed the 2007 College Student Health Survey Report. The results only include undergraduate students from two-year and four-year institutions. All five University of Minnesota campuses were included in the survey.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


October 15, 2008, 5:42 PM CT

A walk in the park improves attention in children with ADHD

A walk in the park improves attention in children with ADHD
For children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) tasks that require concentration such as doing homework or taking a test can be very difficult. A simple, inexpensive remedy may be a "dose of nature".

A study conducted at the University of Illinois shows that children with ADHD demonstrate greater attention after a 20-minute walk in a park than after a similar walk in a downtown area or a residential neighborhood.

The study, conducted by child environment and behavior scientists Andrea Faber Taylor and Frances E. Kuo was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Attention Disorders

"From our prior research, we knew there might be a link between spending time in nature and reduced ADHD symptoms," said Faber Taylor. "So to confirm that link we conducted a study in which we took children on walks in three different settings one particularly "green" and two less "green" and kept everything about the walks as similar as possible".

Some children took the "green" walk first; others took it second or last. After each walk, an experimenter who didn't know which walk the child had been on tested their attention using a standard neurocognitive test called Digit Span Backwards, in which a series of numbers are said aloud and the child recites them backwards. It's a test in which practice doesn't improve your score.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


October 15, 2008, 5:38 PM CT

High-school social skills predict better earnings than test scores

High-school social skills predict better earnings than test scores
Ten years after graduation, high-school students who had been rated as conscientious and cooperative by their teachers were earning more than classmates who had similar test scores but fewer social skills, said a new University of Illinois study.

The study's findings challenge the idea that racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic gaps in educational attainment and earnings can be narrowed solely by emphasizing cognitive skills, said Christy Lleras, a University of Illinois assistant professor of human and community development.

"It's important to note that good schools do more than teach reading, writing, and math. They socialize students and provide the kinds of learning opportunities that help them to become good citizens and to be successful in the labor market," she said.

"Unless we address the differences in school climates and curriculum that foster good work habits and other social skills, we're doing a huge disservice to low-income kids who may be entering the labor market right after high school, particularly in our increasingly service-oriented economy," Lleras added.

She cited responses to employer surveys that stress the need for workers who can get along well with each other and get along well with the public.

The U of I study analyzed data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study, which followed a diverse group of 11,000 tenth graders for 10 years, tracking not only their scores on standard achievement tests but teacher appraisals of such qualities as the students' work habits, their ability to relate well to peers, and their participation in extracurricular activities, a proxy for the ability to interact well with both students and adults.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


October 8, 2008, 9:39 PM CT

Circadian clock may be critical for remembering

Circadian clock may be critical for remembering
The circadian rhythm that quietly pulses inside us all, guiding our daily cycle from sleep to wakefulness and back to sleep again, may be doing much more than just that simple metronomic task, as per Stanford researchers.

Working with Siberian hamsters, biologist Norman Ruby has shown that having a functioning circadian system is critical to the hamsters' ability to remember what they have learned. Without it, he said, "They can't remember anything".

Though not known for their academic prowess, Siberian hamsters nonetheless normally develop what amounts to street smarts about their environment, as do all animals. But hamsters whose circadian system was disabled by a new technique Ruby and colleagues developed consistently failed to demonstrate the same evidence of remembering their environment as hamsters with normally functioning circadian systems.

Until now, it has never been shown that the circadian system is crucial to learning and memory. The finding has implications for diseases that include problems with learning or memory deficits, such as Down syndrome or Alzheimer's disease. The work is described in a paper published Oct. 1 online in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Ruby is lead author on the paper. Siberian hamsters, also known as dwarf hamsters, are about the size of a mouse.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


October 7, 2008, 10:07 PM CT

Compassion meditation to psychological stress

Compassion meditation to psychological stress
Data from a new study suggests that individuals who engage in compassion meditation may benefit by reductions in inflammatory and behavioral responses to stress that have been associated with depression and many medical illnesses. The study's findings are published online at www.sciencedirect.com and in the medical journal Psychoneuroendocrinology

"While much attention has been paid to meditation practices that emphasize calming the mind, improving focused attention or developing mindfulness, less is known about meditation practices designed to specifically foster compassion," says Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi, PhD, who designed and taught the meditation program used in the study. Negi is senior lecturer in the Department of Religion, the co-director of Emory Collaborative for Contemplative Studies and president and spiritual director of Drepung Loseling Monastery, Inc.

This study focused on the effect of compassion meditation on inflammatory, neuroendocrine and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress, and reviewed the degree to which engagement in meditation practice influenced stress reactivity.

"Our findings suggest that meditation practices designed to foster compassion may impact physiological pathways that are modulated by stress and are relevant to disease," explains Charles L. Raison, MD, clinical director of the Mind-Body Program, Emory University's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory School of Medicine, and a lead author on the study.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


October 1, 2008, 9:31 PM CT

Getting help for depression and anxiety

Getting help for depression and anxiety
As per the Mood Disorder Society of Canada, about 1.3 million Canadians suffer from depression.

University of Alberta researcher Ian Colman says most people are not getting the type of therapy they need.

Colman, an assistant professor from the School of Public Health, and his research team decided to perform a study to see the long term effects of taking antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications.

The team studied a group of 200 people who were diagnosed with either depression or anxiety. Of that group, 45 were on medication.

The group of 200 had their mental health assessed in 1989 through a series of questions in a survey asking about their illness and what, if any, therapys they were on. Ten years later the group took a similar questionnaire.

Colman says they were surprised to find those who were not using antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications were three times more likely to be suffering from depression or anxiety 10 years later.

"This is a significant find," said Colman. "What this tells us is that, if people get treated initially, they are less likely to have a relapse in the future. This could be a significant benefit, not only for the patient but also for the health-care system as it's estimated the economic costs in Canada linked to depression are $14 billion per year".........

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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