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August 9, 2006, 10:27 PM CT

Behaviors That Can Lead To Poor Health

Behaviors That Can Lead To Poor Health
Adolescents who feel dissatisfied with their bodies are at higher risk for future binge eating, smoking, poor eating, and decreased physical activity, as per new research from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

A study reported in the August 2006 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health found lower levels of body satisfaction among teenagers can predict the use of unhealthy weight control behaviors, which can lead to weight gain and poorer overall health.

Teenage girls who weren't satisfied with their bodies were more likely to binge eat, participate in less physical activity, eat less fruits and vegetables, take diet pills, and induce vomiting five years later. Adolescent boys with low body satisfaction were also more prone to these unhealthy habits and more likely to start smoking in the future. In contrast, teenagers with a positive body image were more likely to take care of themselves through healthy eating and exercise.

"This study shows that teens who have negative feelings about their bodies don't turn to healthy weight management," said Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., lead author and professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. "Instead, they use weight control behaviors that put them at a higher risk for obesity and poor health down the road. With this in mind, interventions with teens should strive to boost self-confidence so they will want to take care of themselves the right way".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source

August 9, 2006, 7:08 AM CT

Transcendental Meditation And Pain

Transcendental Meditation And Pain
Twelve healthy long-term meditators who had been practicing Transcendental Meditation for 30 years showed a 40-50% lower brain response to pain in comparison to 12 healthy controls, reported by a latest NeuroReport journal article, published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (Vol.17 No.12; 21 August 2006:1359-1363). Further, when the 12 controls then learned and practiced Transcendental Meditation for 5 months, their brain responses to pain also decreased by a comparable 40-50%. Current issue (Aug 9).

Transcendental Meditation could reduce the brain's response to pain because neuroimaging and autonomic studies indicate that it produces a physiological state capable of modifying various kinds of pain. In time it reduces trait anxiety, improves stress reactivity and decreases distress from acute pain.

As per Orme-Johnson, lead author of this research, "Previous research indicates that Transcendental Meditation creates a more balanced outlook on life and greater equanimity in reacting to stress. This study suggests that this is not just an attitudinal change, but a fundamental change in how the brain functions".

Pain is part of everyone's experience and 50 million people worldwide suffer from chronic pain. Transcendental Meditation would have a long term effect in reducing responses in the affective component of the pain matrix. Future research could focus on other areas of the pain matrix and the possible effects of other meditation techniques to relieve pain.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source

August 8, 2006, 9:59 PM CT

Social Stresses Overlooked

Social Stresses Overlooked
When thinking about the well-being of elderly adults, most people focus on medical care, but mental health care is a growing, pressing concern for elderly adults and their families. "At least one in five elderly adults suffer from a mental disorder and experts in geriatric mental health anticipate an 'unprecedented explosion' of elderly adults with disabling mental disorder," says Enola K. Proctor, Ph.D., a mental health care expert and professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis.

"While elderly adults may receive adequate medical and psychiatric care, they rarely receive the care necessary to deal with the general 'problems with living,' or social stresses. These psychosocial problems, such as isolation and family stress, may exacerbate psychiatric problems, depression in particular, and contribute to functional decline."

Just as the quality of medical care has become a major national concern, the quality of mental health care has become a primary focus of the Institute of Medicine and other national policy groups. In a new study reported in the current issue of The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research (Vol. 33), Proctor and his colleagues examined the quality of follow-up care for 186 patients discharged from the geropsychiatric unit of a large urban hospital after therapy for depression.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source

August 8, 2006, 9:55 PM CT

Teamwork: Where The Weak Help The Strong

Teamwork: Where The Weak Help The Strong
Group work is the name of the game in a number of companies. The thinking is that workers will learn more and help each other when they are put into groups composed of people with a variety of expertise. But does this always happen? Some recent research suggests that it may not. at least not always.

"In order to understand how things happen in groups, you need to be aware of the group's hierarchy of status and influence," said Stuart Bunderson, associate professor of organizational behavior at the Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis. "Those hierarchies can actually get in the way of some really important group goals like member-to-member helping and knowledge exchange."

In a co-authored study, Bunderson observed that group status hierarchies that form around perceptions of relative expertise can have some dysfunctional side effects. Specifically, he observed that group members felt more committed to and were more likely to help those members who were perceived to have a higher level of expertise - and were therefore higher status. In other words, the less expert members were helping the more expert members instead of the other way around! And this propensity to ingratiate oneself with the more expert members was particularly pronounced for members who were themselves perceived to be more expert.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source

August 8, 2006, 8:49 PM CT

Brain's Visual Area: How Behavior Is Organized

Brain's Visual Area: How Behavior Is Organized
A brain region that focuses on vision also receives signals that may help configure the operation of the brain, neuroresearchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis report.

If the brain is thought of as an army, the new signals may give researchers a unique opportunity to trace how messages from the high command reach all the way down to individual soldiers in a particular platoon and affect their activities.

That's because the brain region in question, called V1, has already been the focus of detailed studies at the level of individual brain cell interactions and how they encode and analyze data from the eyes.

"To really understand how a control signal works, you first have to know how the mechanism being controlled works, and we already have a fairly detailed feel for that in V1," says Anthony I. Jack, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow and lead author of a study that appeared last month in the journal Neuron. "This provides us with a potential way of understanding a major puzzle: on a minute scale, how do control signals change how neurons process incoming information?".

Much of the human brain's power derives from its ability to take one stimulus and process it in different ways to meet a variety of needs. Different parts of the brain have specialized abilities that can contribute in various ways to completion of different tasks. They just need to be told when to shift from one task to the next.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source

August 8, 2006, 0:18 AM CT

New Learning Strategy

New Learning Strategy In the Thoroughman laboratory, volunteers play games on a computer screeen using a robotic arm so that Thoroughman and his colleagues can study how people learn motor skills.
Central to being human is the ability to adapt: We learn from our mistakes. Prior theories of learning have assumed that the size of learning naturally scales with the size of the mistake. But now biomedical engineers at Washington University in St. Louis have shown that people can use alternative strategies: Learning does not necessarily scale proportionally with error.

In so doing, Kurt Thoroughman, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Washington University, and his graduate student, Michael Fine, have discovered a new learning strategy they call categorical adaptation in which steps of learning are sensitive to the direction of error, but do not scale proportionally with the size of the error. Eventually, their findings could have an impact in the rehabilitation of people with neurological ailments such as strokes by making use of different learning environments.

If you make a movement error in one direction, in makes sense that your next movement would correct toward the opposite direction, in exact proportion to the error. An example would be a pitcher correcting to the right, after missing home plate to the left with a pitch.

"We show that learning does not necessarily scale with error," said Thoroughman. "I think we have uncovered a part of human adaptation that certainly doesn't do that. We are not claiming that all prior theories are false in the behaviors that were captured. It's just that we have for the first time found a part of human adaptation that clearly does not scale with the size of the error."........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source

August 7, 2006, 11:58 PM CT

Best Memorization Strategies

Best Memorization Strategies
Exploring exactly why some individuals' memory skills are better than others has led researchers at Washington University in St. Louis to study the brain basis of learning strategies that healthy young adults select to help them memorize a series of objects. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the researchers uncovered brain regions specifically correlated with the diverse strategies that subjects adopt.

Brenda Kirchhoff, research associate in psychology in the University's School of Arts and Sciences, conducted this study in the then-Washington University lab of Randy L. Buckner, now a professor of psychology at Harvard University and investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Their findings have been published in the July 20, 2006, issue of Neuron. (Kirchhoff is the article's first author and Buckner is senior author.).

"Randy and I were interested in exploring individual differences in memory - why some people are better at learning new information than others," said Kirchhoff. "Our main goal was to determine the learning strategies that people use and their relationship to memory performance. Secondly, we wanted to know if individual differences in learning strategies were associated with individual differences in brain activity".........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source

August 2, 2006, 9:26 PM CT

Basis For Perceptual Learning

Basis For Perceptual Learning
The artist's trained eye can detect distinctions others can't; musicians pick up subtle changes in tone lost on the nonmusical. Brain scientists call these abilities perceptual learning.

Following up on an accidental finding, MIT scientists at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory and his colleagues have uncovered a mechanism for this phenomenon. The study will appear in the Aug. 3 issue of Neuron.

The original idea was to look at how visual deprivation affects the brain. But before mice in the experiment were deprived of vision, scientists recorded baseline measurements by showing them a striped pattern on a video screen.

Unexpectedly, the scientists observed that eventhough no change showed up during the viewing session, as few as 12 hours later the mice were more visually "tuned" to the pattern they had seen. Over several sessions, the mice's brain responses to the stripes increased, with the biggest responses occurring to stripes the mice saw more often. The scientists dubbed this change "stimulus selective response potentiation" or SRP.

"The properties of SRP are strikingly similar to those described for some forms of human perceptual learning," said Mark Bear, Picower Professor of Neuroscience and co-author of the study. As a result, "understanding this type of perceptual learning is important because it can reveal mechanisms of implicit memory formation and might be exploited to promote rehabilitation after brain damage. Detailed knowledge of how practice changes brain chemistry is likely to suggest new pharmacological and behavioral therapies to facilitate these changes.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source

August 1, 2006, 11:27 PM CT

Confusion, Not Stress

Confusion, Not Stress
Even though they are trained in CPR, people hesitate to take action when an emergency unfolds in front of them. But the cause, a study has observed, is more likely to be confusion than stress.

A study conducted by several scientists surveyed 1,243 lay people trained in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) who took part in a clinical trial. Most of them said they experienced low stress levels when faced with responding to a person in medical distress. "Most lay responders did not view the experience as onerous, but there are people who had negative experiences," said Dr. David Feeny, a professor of Public Health Sciences at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, and one of the co-authors on the study. Also contributing to the study were scientists from the University of Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh, University of Washington, as well as medical workers and health centres.

The study was published recently in the journal Resuscitation.

Random cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in North America and lay responder CPR rates remain low.

Respondents did indicate that practical issues such as crowd control and skill performance concerned them more than their emotions. Concerns included barriers to responding such as communication with confused and combative patients; skills such as accessing airways or taking accurate pulse checks; accessing the victim in awkward, dark or cramped areas; harnessing their own feelings of panic; and dealing with the characteristics of the victim, such as bleeding, jerking, vomiting, age and size.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source

August 1, 2006, 7:06 AM CT

Study Frames Depression Treatment Puzzle

Study Frames Depression Treatment Puzzle
Reported in the August 2006 edition of the American Journal of Psychiatry, the study used electroencephalogram (EEG) measurements to demonstrate an association between eventual clinical outcome and regional changes in brain activity during a placebo lead-in phase previous to antidepressant therapy.

The findings suggest that factors such as patient beliefs and expectations, doctor-patient relationships, or therapy history help complete the therapy picture.

In this study, all subjects received blinded therapy with placebo for one week previous to receiving antidepressant medication. A "placebo lead-in" phase is usually used to familiarize patients with study procedures and to minimize the effect of any pre-existing therapy for depression. The placebo lead-in includes patient care, participation and therapy with placebo; the clinical impact is largely unknown.

This study is the first to assess the relationship between brain changes during the placebo lead-in phase and later clinical outcome of antidepressant therapy.

"Treatment results appear to be predicted, in part, by changes in brain activity found during placebo lead-in--previous to the actual use of antidepressant medication," said lead author Aimee M. Hunter, a research associate at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         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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