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February 12, 2008, 9:34 PM CT

Body image is stronger predictor of health than obesity

Body image is stronger predictor of health than obesity
In a study to examine the impact of desired body weight on the number of unhealthy days subjects report over one month, scientists at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health observed that the desire to weigh less was a more accurate predictor of physically and mentally unhealthy days, than body mass index (BMI). In addition, the desire to lose weight was more predictive of unhealthy days among Whites than among African-Americans or Hispanics, and among women than among men. The paper, I Think Therefore I Am: Perceived Ideal Weight as a Determinant of Health, would be reported in the recent issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

After controlling for actual BMI and age, the scientists observed that men who wished to lose 1 percent, 10 percent, and 20 percent of their body weight, respectively, reported 0.1, 0.9 and 2.7 more unhealthy days per month than those who were happy with their weight. Among women, the corresponding increase in numbers of reported unhealthy days was 0.1, 1.6 and 4.3. Persons who were happy with their weight experienced fewer physically unhealthy days (3.0 vs 3.7) and mentally unhealthy days (2.6 vs 3.6) compared with persons unhappy with their weight.

Our data suggest that some of the obesity epidemic may be partially attributable to social constructs that surround ideal body types, said Peter Muennig, MD, MPH, Mailman School of Public Health assistant professor of Health Policy and Management. Younger persons, Whites, and women are disproportionately affected by negative body.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

February 12, 2008, 9:20 PM CT

Gene research to explain autistic savants

Gene research to explain autistic savants
From left, postdoctoral associate Albert Y. Hung and Menicon Professor of Neuroscience Morgan H. Sheng report gene research that may explain the phenomenon of autistic savants. Photo / Donna Coveney
Mice lacking a certain brain protein learn some tasks better but also forget faster, as per new research from MIT that may explain the phenomenon of autistic savants in humans. The work could also result in future therapys for autism and other brain development disorders.

Scientists at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT report in the Feb. 13 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience that mice genetically engineered to lack a key protein used for building synapses--the junctions through which brain cells communicate--actually learned a spatial memory task faster and better than normal mice. But when tested weeks later, they couldn't remember what they had learned as well as normal mice, and they had trouble remembering contexts that should have provoked fear.

"These opposite effects on different types of learning are reminiscent of the mixed features of autistic patients, who may be disabled in some cognitive areas but show enhanced abilities in others," said Albert Y. Hung, a postdoctoral associate at the Picower Institute, staff neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and co-author of the study. "The superior learning ability of these mutant mice in a specific realm is reminiscent of human autistic savants."

Autism is one of a group of developmental disabilities known as autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), in which a person's ability to communicate and interact with others is impaired. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that one in 150 American children have an ASD. Occasionally, an autistic person has an outstanding skill, such as an incredible rote memory or musical ability. Such individuals--like the character Dustin Hoffman played in the film "Rain Man"--may be referred to as autistic savants.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

February 11, 2008, 10:46 PM CT

Hostility, Depression And Heart Disease

Hostility, Depression And  Heart Disease
Scientists led by Jesse Stewart, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, report that hostility and depression appear to act together in a complex way to elevate inflammatory proteins in the human body, possibly putting hostility plus depression on the list of risk factors for heart disease along with high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and smoking.

The findings, that hostility enhances inflammatory processes relevant to heart disease only in the presence of depressive symptoms, are reported in the February-March 2008 issue of Psychosomatic Medicine. Dr. Stewart and his colleagues examined associations of depressive symptoms and hostility with blood levels of two inflammatory proteins, interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein, that are predictive of future heart disease. Participants in the study were 316 healthy men and women aged 50-70.

Prior studies have observed depression to be linked to raised inflammatory protein levels. Other studies have confirmed links between hostility and inflammatory proteins that are predictive of heart disease. But this study is the first to find that, among elderly adults, the relationship between hostility and these inflammatory proteins depends on the level of depression.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

February 10, 2008, 10:00 PM CT

High School to the First Year of College

High School to the First Year of College
Increases in young women's drinking during the transition from high school through the first year of college can have dangerous physical, sexual and psychological implications, as per a report out of the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions.

The good news is that during the first year of college, when a number of young women increase their drinking, the majority (78 percent) of the 870 incoming freshmen women who took part in the study did not experience any victimization. The bad news, however, is that among the 22 percent of women who were victimized, 13 percent experienced severe physical victimization and 38 percent experienced severe sexual victimization.

The research results were reported in the January 2008 issue of the prestigious Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

"This is the first study that we know of that has compared risk for physical and sexual assault among college women based on changes in drinking during this transition period," said Kathleen A. Parks, Ph.D., principal investigator on the study. "Clearly, abstaining from drinking is a protective measure. However, young college women should be aware that becoming a new drinker or increasing one's drinking during this transition increases the likelihood of victimization."........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source

February 6, 2008, 9:15 PM CT

Adolescent Reaction to Iraq War

Adolescent Reaction to Iraq War
University of Cincinnati scientists are reporting what they call a significant pattern among Iraqi adolescents and their reaction to the war in Iraq - the higher the perceived threat of the war, the higher the teens reported their self-esteem. The findings - from a 2004 survey of 1,000 Iraqi adolescents in 10 neighborhoods in Baghdad - are published in the current issue of the Journal of Adolescence.

Steve Carlton-Ford, a University of Cincinnati associate professor and co-author of the study, says the findings give a rare look at the impact of war on adolescents, explaining that, in general, sociologists and psychology experts are examining how war affects small children. Carlton-Ford adds that in the cases of young children, conflict-related events typically lower a child's psychological well-being. The survey of Iraqi teens was conducted in 2004 by co-author Morton Ender of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, who supervised field surveys with the U.S. Army in the neighborhoods surrounding Baghdad. The study is also authored by UC doctoral student Ahoo Tabatabai.

The authors observed that despite obvious threat to the adolescents' sense of security, the youth were coping fairly well in 2004, with self-esteem levels comparable to that of Palestinian youth. "In the presence of conflict-related trauma one generally observes lower levels of psychological well-being (e.g., PTSD, grief reactions), and sometimes lower self-esteem," write the authors. "Our results, however, are consistent with a body of theory and research that predicts self-esteem striving and higher self-esteem among the individuals who face indirect threats to central components of their social identities (rather than directly facing traumatic war-related events). In other words, in a situation where we observe a broad social context involving the presence of foreign forces ( a clear violation of Muslim principles) combined with general violence throughout Baghdad and Iraq, we also observe a heightened sense of self, at least to the extent that one's self is tied to one's nation".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

January 31, 2008, 9:54 PM CT

Parenting program does not prevent toddler behavior problems

Parenting program does not prevent toddler behavior problems
A study of the first universal parenting programme, designed to prevent early child behaviour problems, shows that it has little impact on toddler behaviour.

The study, conducted at the Centre for Community Child Health (CCCH) in Melbourne, Australia, is published on today.

Behaviour problems affect up to 20 per cent of children and have major personal, societal and economic ramifications. Left untreated, up to half of behaviour problems in preschool children develop into later mental health problems.

Prevention targeted to high-risk families can be effective, but has limited reach and may stigmatise. Universal programmes offered to all families could address these concerns, but their effectiveness is uncertain.

Scientists from the CCCH and the Parenting Research Centre, with input from maternal and child health nurses, designed a programme suitable for all parents to be delivered by trained health professionals in primary care. The programme aimed to prevent child behaviour problems, such as defiance and aggression, and improve parenting and maternal mental health.

Over 700 mothers of 8 month-old infants took part in the study and were randomised to either the programme (three sessions at age 8-15 months) or usual care from their local Maternal and Child Health centre. Mothers were surveyed throughout the study and their mental health was assessed when their children reached 18 and 24 months.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

January 29, 2008, 9:22 PM CT

Creative and noncreative problem solvers

Creative and noncreative problem solvers
Why do some people solve problems more creatively than others? Are people who think creatively somehow different from those who tend to think in a more methodical fashion? .

These questions are part of a long-standing debate, with some scientists arguing that what we call creative thought and noncreative thought are not basically different. If this is the case, then people who are thought of as creative do not really think in a fundamentally different way from those who are thought of as noncreative. On the other side of this debate, some scientists have argued that creative thought is fundamentally different from other forms of thought. If this is true, then those who tend to think creatively really are somehow different.

A new study led by John Kounios, professor of psychology at Drexel University and Mark Jung-Beeman of Northwestern University addresses these questions by comparing the brain activity of creative and noncreative problem solvers. The study reported in the journal Neuropsychologia, reveals a distinct pattern of brain activity, even at rest, in people who tend to solve problems with a sudden creative insight -- an Aha! Moment in comparison to people who tend to solve problems more methodically.

At the beginning of the study, participants relaxed quietly for seven minutes while their electroencephalograms (EEGs) were recorded to show their brain activity. The participants were not given any task to perform and told they could think about whatever they wanted. Later, they were asked to solve a series of anagrams scrambled letters that can be rearranged to form words [MPXAELE = EXAMPLE]. These can be solved by deliberately and methodically trying out different letter combinations, or they can be solved with a sudden insight or Aha! in which the solution pops into awareness. After each successful solution, participants indicated in which way the solution had come to them.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source

January 24, 2008, 11:06 PM CT

Don't worry, be happy, research suggests

Don't worry, be happy, research suggests
Illinois psychology professor Ed Diener suggests that happiness is a worthy goal for those who lack it, but the endless pursuit of even more happiness for the already happy may be counterproductive.

Credit: Photo courtesy Ed Diener, University of Illinois
Could the pursuit of happiness go too far" Most self-help books on the subject offer tips on how to maximize ones bliss, but a new study suggests that moderate happiness may be preferable to full-fledged elation.

The researchers, from the University of Virginia, the University of Illinois and Michigan State University, looked at data from the World Values Survey, a large-scale analysis of economic, social, political and religious influences around the world. They also analyzed the behaviors and attitudes of 193 undergraduate students at Illinois.

Their findings, which appear in the December 2007 Perspectives on Psychological Science, challenge the common assumption that all measures of well-being go up as happiness increases. While a number of indicators of success and well-being do correspond to higher levels of happiness, the scientists report, those at the uppermost end of the happiness scale (people who report that they are 10s on a 10-point life satisfaction score) are in some measures worse off than their slightly less elated counterparts.

To put the findings in perspective, it is important to note that happiness generally correlates with all kinds of positive measures, said Illinois psychology professor Ed Diener, an author of the study. In general, the happier you are the more successful you are in terms of money, employment and relationships.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

January 24, 2008, 10:55 PM CT

Marijuana withdrawal as bad as withdrawal from cigarettes

Marijuana withdrawal as bad as withdrawal from cigarettes
Research by a group of researchers studying the effects of heavy marijuana use suggests that withdrawal from the use of marijuana is similar to what is experienced by people when they quit smoking cigarettes. Abstinence from each of these drugs appears to cause several common symptoms, such as irritability, anger and trouble sleeping - based on self reporting in a recent study of 12 heavy users of both marijuana and cigarettes.

These results indicate that some marijuana users experience withdrawal effects when they try to quit, and that these effects should be considered by clinicians treating people with problems correlation to heavy marijuana use, says lead investigator in the study, Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the United States. Admissions in substance abuse therapy facilities in which marijuana was the primary problem substance have more than doubled since the early part of 1990s and now rank similar to cocaine and heroin with respect to total number of yearly therapy episodes in the United States, says Vandrey.

He points out that a lack of data, until recently, has led to cannabis withdrawal symptoms not being characterized or included in medical reference literature such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, (DSM-IV) or the International Classification of Diseases, 10th edition (ICD-10).........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

January 22, 2008, 11:07 PM CT

Questions About Diagnosis, Medical Treatment Of ADHD

Questions About Diagnosis, Medical Treatment Of ADHD
A new UCLA study shows that only about half of children diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, exhibit the cognitive defects usually linked to the condition.

The study also observed that in populations where medicine is rarely prescribed to treat ADHD, the prevalence and symptoms of the disorder are roughly equivalent to populations in which medicine is widely used.

The results of the first large, longitudinal study of adolescents and ADHD, conducted among the population of northern Finland, appeared in several papers in a special section of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry published in December and are currently online.

ADHD is a common, chronic behavioral disorder characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity that is thought to affect some 5 to 10 percent of school-age children worldwide.

In adolescence, ADHD is generally linked to cognitive deficits, especially with working memory and inhibition, which have been associated with overall intelligence and academic achievement, as per UCLA psychiatry professor Susan Smalley, who headed the research. Interestingly, the study showed that these deficits are only present in about half of adolescents diagnosed with ADHD.........

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. Archives of psychology news blog

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