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November 7, 2006, 10:10 PM CT

Happy People Are Healthier

Happy People Are Healthier
Happiness and other positive emotions play an even more important role in health than previously thought, as per a research studyreported in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine by Carnegie Mellon University Psychology Professor Sheldon Cohen. The paper will be available online at www.psychosomaticmedicine.org/.

This recent study confirms the results of a landmark 2004 paper in which Cohen and colleagues observed that people who are happy, lively, calm or exhibit other positive emotions are less likely to become ill when they are exposed to a cold virus than those who report few of these emotions. In that study, Cohen observed that when they do come down with a cold, happy people report fewer symptoms than would be expected from objective measures of their illness. In contrast, reporting more negative emotions such as depression, anxiety and anger was not linked to catching colds. That study, however, left open the possibility that the greater resistance to infectious illness among happier people may not have been due to happiness, but rather to other characteristics that are often linked to reporting positive emotions such as optimism, extraversion, feelings of purpose in life and self-esteem.

Cohen's recent study controls for those variables, with the same result: The people who report positive emotions are less likely to catch colds and also less likely to report symptoms when they do get sick. This held true regardless of their levels of optimism, extraversion, purpose and self-esteem, and of their age, race, gender, education, body mass or prestudy immunity to the virus.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


November 7, 2006, 4:58 AM CT

Why Do We Stick To Our Bad Habits?

Why Do We Stick To Our Bad Habits?
Why do we ignore public warnings and advertisements about the dangers of smoking, drinking alcohol, overeating, stressing out and otherwise persist in habits and behaviours that we know aren't good for us?

Because, says a University of Alberta researcher, we aren't getting at the underlying reasons of why we persist in bad habits or risky behaviour.

In two recent case studies asking people to rate the danger of various types of risks including lifestyle habits, it was clear that they understood what types of behaviour are the riskiest, but that knowledge wasn't enough to motivate them to change their ways, said Dr. Cindy Jardine, an assistant professor of rural sociology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.

"The results showed that in fact, people have a very realistic understanding of the various risks in their lives. We as risk communicators--scientists, academics, government agencies--have to get beyond the thought of 'If they only understood the facts, they'd change.' They do understand the facts, but we need to look at other factors we haven't been looking at before".

Jardine presented her findings recently at the RiskCom 2006 Conference in Sweden.

In the first case study conducted by Jardine, 1,200 people in Alberta were surveyed in both 1994 and 2005. Lifestyle habits like cigarette smoking, stress and sun-tanning were ranked as the top three risks, being considered more dangerous to the Alberta public than technology or pollution hazards such as chemical contamination, ozone depletion and sour gas wells. Cigarette smoking was ranked as "very dangerous" by 53 per cent of those surveyed in 1994 and by 60 per cent of the respondents surveyed in 2005. Stress was ranked as "very dangerous" by 54 per cent of the people in 1994 and by 65 per cent in 2005. In contrast, sour gas wells were ranked as "very dangerous" by only 24 per cent of the people in 1994 and by 28 per cent in 2005.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


November 6, 2006, 7:42 PM CT

Pounding Heart And Sweaty Palms

Pounding Heart And Sweaty Palms
People who get scared when they experience a pounding heart, sweaty palms or dizziness -- even if the cause is something as mundane as stress, exercise or caffeine -- are more likely to develop a clinical case of anxiety or panic disorder, as per a Florida State University researcher in Tallahassee, Fla.

While other scientists have proposed a correlation between this so-called "anxiety sensitivity" and a range of anxiety problems, the study by FSU psychology professors N. Brad Schmidt and Jon Maner and University of Vermont Professor Michael Zvolensky provides the first evidence that anxiety sensitivity is a risk factor in the development of anxiety disorders. The study would be reported in the recent issue of the Journal of Psychiatric Research.

"The findings offer an exciting possibility for prevention of anxiety and panic reactions among high-risk individuals," Schmidt said, explaining that the key is to teach people cognitive and behavioral skills to reduce their anxiety sensitivity so that it does not lead to a serious problem.

People with anxiety sensitivity perceive their physical responses to certain triggers as a sign of imminent personal harm. They not only fear their reactions, they also fear that other people will detect their anxiety, which only serves to increase their anxiety and puts them at risk for a panic attack, as per Schmidt.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


November 6, 2006, 4:48 AM CT

Who Would Cut The Cake?

Who Would Cut The Cake?
Suppose a cake is to be divided between two people, Alice and Bob. A fair procedure is to have Alice cut the cake and then have Bob choose whichever piece he prefers. Alice has an incentive to cut the cake exactly in half, since she will be left with whichever piece Bob does not take.

This "you cut, I choose" method, known since time immemorial, has been used in dispute resolutions ranging from land division in the Bible to children's squabbles over birthday cake. An article to appear in the December 2006 issue of the Notices of the AMS draws on the power and precision of mathematics to show there are even better ways to cut a cake.

The three authors of the article, Steven J. Brams, Michael A. Jones, and Christian Klamler, point out that the cut-and-choose method has the desirable property of "envy-freeness": Neither person envies the other, because each knows he has gotten at least half the cake. But the method lacks another desirable property, that of equitability: The subjective value that the two people place on the pieces they get might not be the same. For example, suppose one half of the cake is frosted with vanilla icing and the other with chocolate icing, and suppose Alice values chocolate icing twice as much as vanilla. It is possible that Alice's valuation of the piece she gets will be less than Bob's valuation of his piece, making these the two valuations inequitable.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


November 5, 2006, 9:17 PM CT

Toddlers Learn Complex Actions From Picture-book

Toddlers Learn Complex Actions From Picture-book
Parents who engage in the age-old tradition of picture-book reading are not only encouraging early reading development in their children but are also teaching their toddlers about the world around them, as per a research studyin the recent issue of Developmental Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA). This finding shows that interactions with life-like color pictures can aid in children's learning.

Parents of preschool children reported that they own dozens of children's picture books and spend approximately 40 minutes a day reading books to their small children. To determine the extent of a young child's ability to learn from a picture-book, psychology expert Gabrielle Simcock, PhD, University of Queensland and co-author and psychology expert Judy DeLoache, PhD, University of Virginia, tested if toddlers could imitate specific target actions on novel real-world objects on the basis of a picture-book interaction.

A total of 132 children from three different age groups (18 months, 24 months and 30 months) participated in two studies to determine if age influenced a toddler's ability to learn how to construct a simple rattle from a picture-book reading. In the first study, two groups of children ages 18, 24 and 30-months, were given one of two picture books. One contained six color photographs and the other contained colored pencil drawings that were reproductions of the photograph. At the end of the reading, the children were asked to construct a rattle using the items in front of them. The study revealed that a number of of the children were able to imitate the actions depicted and described in the book.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


November 2, 2006, 5:02 AM CT

Serotonin Child Abuse Link

Serotonin Child Abuse Link
A research team observed that when baby rhesus monkeys endured high rates of maternal rejection and mild abuse in their first month of life, their brains often produced less serotonin, a chemical that transmits impulses in the brain. Low levels of serotonin are linked to anxiety and depression and impulsive aggression in both humans and monkeys.

Abused females who became abusive mothers in adulthood had lower serotonin in their brains than abused females who did not become abusive parents, the research showed.

Because the biological make up of humans and monkeys is quite similar, the findings from the monkey research could be valuable in understanding human child abuse, said Dario Maestripieri, Associate Professor in Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago.

"This research could have important implications for humans because we do not fully understand why some abused children become abusive parents and others don't," Maestripieri said. The research suggests that therapys with drugs that increase brain serotonin early in an abused child's life could reduce the likelihood that the child will grow up to become abusive, Maestripieri said.

Maestripieri is lead author of a paper reporting the research, "Early Maternal Rejection Affects the Development of Monoaminergic Systems and Adult Abusive Parenting in Rhesus Macaques" reported in the current issue of Behavioral Neuroscience.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


November 1, 2006, 3:58 PM CT

Nap A Day Makes Doctors OK

Nap A Day Makes Doctors OK
Give emergency room doctors a nap, and not only will they do a better job, they'll also be nicer to you, as per a new study from Stanford University School of Medicine.

The findings, would be reported in the recent issue of Annals of Emergency Medicine, showed improved mood, a higher alertness level and the ability to complete a simulated I.V. insertion more quickly among doctors and nurses who were allowed a short nap while working the night shift in an emergency room.

"Napping is a very powerful, very inexpensive way of improving our work," said one of the study's authors, Steven Howard, MD, associate professor of anesthesia and expert on sleep deprivation and fatigue.

Howard has taken the results of the study one step further and begun implementing an official napping program at the hospital at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System. "This is the first time a napping program has been instituted to try to get at the problem of fatigue in the workplace for health-care workers," he said.

As per statistics on America's need for sleep, plenty of people could use a nap. More than 50 percent of Americans are sleep-deprived.

Scientific research has documented the need for naps to mitigate drowsiness and improve performance and alertness in pilots and truckers, but no prior study has looked specifically at the possible benefits for health-care workers, said the first author of the study, Rebecca Smith-Coggins, MD, associate professor of surgery (emergency medicine).........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source


November 1, 2006, 4:57 AM CT

Poor Readers Have Higher Risk Of Suicide

Poor Readers Have Higher Risk Of Suicide
Teenagers with reading problems are at significantly higher risk for suicide and for dropping out of school than typical readers, as per a research studyby Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center researchers.

"In our study, poor readers were three times more likely than typical readers to consider or attempt suicide and six times more likely to drop out of school," said lead author Stephanie Sergent Daniel, Ph.D. "Educators and parents should be aware of the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior among adolescents with reading problems."

The results, reported today in the recent issue of the Journal of Learning Disabilities, are from a study of 188 students recruited from six public high schools at age 15. They were followed for a mean of 3.3 years.

Scientists initially screened 1,074 students and identified a sub-group willing to participate in the long-term study. From this group, they recruited a group of poor readers and a group of typical readers that were matched for gender and race.

Standard educational tests were used to measure single-word reading ability, one of several skills involved in reading. Students scoring in the lowest 18 percent were considered poor readers - a cutoff usually used to diagnose dyslexia. In addition, each student and his primary caretaker were interviewed by master's level trained research clinicians to assess psychiatric disorders and suicidal behaviors. The median length between interviews for students and parents was twelve months.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


November 1, 2006, 4:29 AM CT

Antidepressants Linked To Lower Child Suicide Rates

Antidepressants Linked To Lower Child Suicide Rates
Scientists report an inverse relationship between antidepressant prescriptions and the rates of suicide in children and adolescents -- a finding that contradicts the Food and Drug Administration's "black box" warning for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor medications, also known as SSRI drugs.

The University of Illinois at Chicago epidemiologic study appears in the recent issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

The scientists examined suicide rates of children ages 5-14 in each county of the United States from 1996 to 1998 and county-level data on SSRI prescriptions. The results were adjusted for sex, race, income, access to quality mental health care and variations in county-to-county suicide rates.

"We observed that counties with the highest prescription rates for SSRI drugs had the lowest suicide rates in children and adolescents," said the lead author Robert Gibbons, director of the Center for Health Statistics and professor of biostatistics and psychiatry at UIC. "This is just the opposite of what you would predict if SSRI's were producing suicide".

There were 933 suicides among children ages 5-14 from 1996 to 1998, or an overall annual rate of 0.8 per 100,000. The scientists observed that in counties with low antidepressant prescription rates, the suicide rate was as high as 1.7 per 100,000. In counties with high antidepressant prescription rates, the suicide rate was as low as 0.7 per 100,000.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


October 30, 2006, 8:22 PM CT

Speaking In Tongues

Speaking In Tongues
Glossolalia, otherwise referred to as "speaking in tongues," has been around for thousands of years, and references to it can be found in the Old and New Testament. Speaking in tongues is an unusual mental state linked to specific religious traditions. The individual appears to be speaking in an incomprehensible language, yet perceives it to have great personal meaning. Now, in a first of its kind study, researchers are shining the light on this mysterious practice -- attempting to explain what actually happens physiologically to the brain of someone while speaking in tongues.

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have discovered decreased activity in the frontal lobes, an area of the brain linked to being in control of one's self. This pioneering study, involving functional imaging of the brain while subjects were speaking in tongues, is in the recent issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, the official publication of the International Society for Neuroimaging in Psychiatry.

Radiology researchers observed increased or decreased brain activity - by measuring regional cerebral blood flow with SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography) imaging - while the subjects were speaking in tongues. They then compared the imaging to what happened to the brain while the subjects sang gospel music.........

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.

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