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December 15, 2008, 5:18 AM CT

High blood pressure may make it difficult for the elderly to think clearly

High blood pressure may make it difficult for the elderly to think clearly
Adding another reason for people to watch their blood pressure, a new study from North Carolina State University shows that increased blood pressure in elderly adults is directly correlation to decreased cognitive functioning, especially among seniors with already high blood pressure. This means that stressful situations may make it more difficult for some seniors to think clearly.

Dr. Jason Allaire, an assistant professor of psychology at NC State who co-authored the study, explains that study subjects whose average systolic blood pressure was 130 or higher saw a significant decrease in cognitive function when their blood pressure spiked. However, Allaire notes, study subjects whose average blood pressure was low or normal saw no change in their cognitive functioning even when their blood pressure shot up.

Specifically, Allaire says, the study shows a link between blood pressure spikes in seniors with hypertension and a decrease in their inductive reasoning. "Inductive reasoning is important," Allaire says, "because it is essentially the ability to work flexibly with unfamiliar information and find solutions".

Allaire says the findings may indicate that mental stress is partially responsible for the increase in blood pressure and the corresponding breakdown in cognitive functioning. However, Allaire notes that normal fluctuations in blood pressure likely play a role as well.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


December 15, 2008, 5:15 AM CT

Psychotherapy to treat eating disorders

Psychotherapy to treat eating disorders
Wellcome Trust researchers have developed a new form of psychotherapy that has been shown to have the potential to treat more than eight out of ten cases of eating disorders in adults, a study out today reports.

This new "enhanced" form of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT-E) builds on and improves the current leading treatment for bulimia nervosa as recommended by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). CBT-E is the first treatment to be shown to be suitable for the majority of cases of eating disorders.

According to NICE, eating disorders are a major cause of physical and psychosocial impairment in young women, affecting at least one in twenty women between the ages of 18 and 30. They also occur in young men but are less common. Three eating disorders are recognised: anorexia nervosa, which accounts for around one in ten cases in adults; bulimia nervosa, which accounts for a third of all cases; and the remainder are classed as "atypical eating disorders, which account for over half of all cases. In these atypical cases the features of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are combined in a different way.

The three eating disorders vary in their severity, but typically involve extreme and relentless dieting, self-induced vomiting or laxative misuse, binge eating, driven exercising and in some cases marked weight loss. Common associated features are depression, social withdrawal, perfectionism and low self-esteem. The disorders tend to run a chronic course and are notoriously difficult to treat. Relapse is common.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


December 11, 2008, 5:22 AM CT

Panic attacks linked to higher risk of heart attacks

Panic attacks linked to higher risk of heart attacks
People who have been diagnosed with panic attacks or panic disorder have a greater risk of subsequently developing heart disease or suffering a heart attack than the normal population, with higher rates occurring in younger people, as per research published in Europe's leading cardiology journal, the European Heart Journal [1] today (Thursday 11 December).

The study observed that people who were younger than 50 when first diagnosed had a significantly higher risk of subsequent heart attacks (or myocardial infarctions, MI), but this was not the case in older people. It also found there was a significantly higher occurence rate of subsequent coronary heart disease (CHD) in people diagnosed with panic attacks/disorder at all ages, but this was more marked in the under 50s.

However, the research also showed that the risk of dying from CHD was actually reduced amongst people of all ages who had been diagnosed with panic attacks/disorder.

The study is the first to look at a very large sample of the UK population of all ages (a total of 404,654 people) selected from a primary care population that can be broadly generalised to other countries with a similar socio-demographic structure. It is also the first to identify that the higher risk of heart attacks with panic attacks/disorder is mainly in younger people (aged under 50 years), and that having a panic attacks/disorder diagnosis is linked to a lower risk of dying from heart conditions.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


December 11, 2008, 5:09 AM CT

Strategic video game improves critical cognitive skills

Strategic video game improves critical cognitive skills
Illinois psychology professor Arthur Kramer and postdoctoral research Chandramallika Basak found that several important cognitive skills improved in older adults who were trained in a strategic video game.
A desire to rule the world may be a good thing if you're over 60 and worried about losing your mental faculties. A new study observed that adults in their 60s and 70s can improve many cognitive functions by playing a strategic video game that rewards nation-building and territorial expansion.

This is the first such study of elderly adults, and it is the first to find such pronounced effects on cognitive skills not directly correlation to the skills learned in the video game, said University of Illinois psychology professor Arthur Kramer, an author on the study.

The research appears this month in the journal Psychology & Aging

Decades of laboratory studies designed to improve specific cognitive skills, such as short-term memory, have found again and again that trainees improve almost exclusively on the tasks they perform in the lab and only under laboratory conditions, Kramer said.

"When you train somebody on a task they tend to improve in that task, whatever it is, but it commonly doesn't transfer much beyond that skill or beyond the particular situation in which they learned it," he said. "And there are virtually no studies that examine whether there's any transfer outside the lab to things people care about".

Kramer and colleagues wanted to know whether a more integrated training approach could go beyond the training environment to enhance the cognitive skills used in every day life. Specifically, the scientists wondered whether interactive video games might benefit those cognitive functions that decline most with age.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


December 9, 2008, 10:10 PM CT

Genetic markers identified for alcohol response

Genetic markers identified for alcohol response
Researchers at the UCSF Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center have identified a region on the human genome that appears to determine how strongly drinkers feel the effects of alcohol and thus how prone they are to alcohol abuse.

The researchers found that a DNA sequence variation, known as a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), on chromosome 15 is significantly associated with the level of response to alcohol and could signal the genetic factors that affect alcohol abuse, according to findings published in the Dec. 8 online edition of the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences".

The research investigated two sentinel SNP markers - RS1051730 and RS8034191 -that previously had been associated with nicotine dependence and lung cancer and found a strong association with the first marker, according to Raymond L. White, PhD, director of the Gallo Center and senior author on the paper.

"We know that the level of response to alcohol is heritable and think there are genetic factors behind 40 to 60 percent of alcohol dependence, but until now, the chromosomal locations of these factors have not been clear for the most common forms of alcohol use disorders," White said. "By understanding which portion of our genetic makeup influences our response to alcohol, we can begin to understand what type of treatments might be most successful in helping reduce alcohol use disorders".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


December 9, 2008, 10:01 PM CT

How Power Affects Complex Decision Making

How Power Affects Complex Decision Making
Presidential scholars have written volumes trying to understand the presidential mind. How can anyone juggle so a number of complicated decisions? Do those seeking office have a unique approach to decision making? Studies have suggested that power changes not only a person's responsibilities, but also the way they think. Now, a new study in the recent issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, indicates that having power may lead people to automatically think in a way that makes complex decision-making easier.

Psychology experts Pamela Smith, Ap Dijksterhuis and Daniƫl Wigboldus of Radboud University Nijmegen stimulated feelings of powerlessness or power in a group of volunteers by having some volunteers recall a situation when other people had power over them and other volunteers recall a situation when they had power over other people. Then they were given a complicated problem to solve (they had to pick among four cars, each varying on 12 different attributes). The experiment was designed so that there was a "correct" solution-that is, one of the cars had the most positive and least negative attributes, eventhough the optimal choice was not obvious. Both the "powerful" and the "powerless" volunteers chose among the cars, but some spent time consciously thinking about the problem, while others were distracted with a word puzzle.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


December 9, 2008, 9:25 PM CT

Genetic underpinnings of nicotine addiction

Genetic underpinnings of nicotine addiction
A new study from the Abramson Cancer Center and Department of Psychiatry in the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine shows that smokers who carry a particular version of a gene for an enzyme that regulates dopamine in the brain may suffer from concentration problems and other cognitive deficits when abstaining from nicotine a problem that puts them at risk for relapse during attempts to quit smoking. The findings, newly reported in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, pave the way to identify novel medications to treat nicotine addiction.

"These findings also provide an important step toward personalized treatment for nicotine addiction by clarifying the role of inherited genetic variation in smoking abstinence symptoms that promote relapse," says senior author Caryn Lerman, PhD, the Mary W. Calkins Professor in Penn's Department of Psychiatry and Scientific Director of Penn's Abramson Cancer Center.

"The new data identify a novel brain-behavior mechanism that plays a role in nicotine dependence and relapse during quitting attempts," says lead author James Loughead, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry. Loughead and Lerman studied groups of smokers with different inherited variations in a gene which influences levels of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that governs working memory and complex decision-making. Spurred by their prior findings that carriers of the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) val gene variant are more susceptible to smoking relapse, the Penn scientists set out to learn if smokers with this genetic background would be more likely to exhibit altered brain function and cognitive deficits during periods of abstinence from smoking.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


December 9, 2008, 9:22 PM CT

Boy-girl bullying in middle grades common

Boy-girl bullying in middle grades common
Philip C. Rodkin

Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
Much more cross-gender bullying - specifically, unpopular boys harassing popular girls - occurs in later elementary school grades than previously thought, meaning educators should take reports of harassment from popular girls seriously, as per new research by a University of Illinois professor who studies child development.

Philip C. Rodkin, a professor of child development at the U. of I.'s College of Education, said that while most bullies are boys, their victims, counter to popular conception, are not just other boys.

"We observed that a lot of male bullies between fourth and sixth grade are bullying girls - more than people would have anticipated - and a substantial amount of that boy-girl, cross-gender bullying goes unreported," he said.

Rodkin, who along with Christian Berger, a professor at the Universidad Alberto Hurtado in Santiago, Chile, published the paper "Who Bullies Whom? Social Status Asymmetries by Victim Gender" in the most recent issue of the International Journal of Behavioral Development, said cross-gender bullying hasn't been fully explored because of the ways scientists have thought about the social status dynamic of bullying in the past.

"Bullies are generally more popular than their victims, and have more power over their victim, whether it's physical strength or psychological power," Rodkin said. "Scientists have taken it for granted that a bully will also have a higher social status than their victims. Based on our research, that's not necessarily the case".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


December 8, 2008, 10:33 PM CT

Are men hardwired to overspend?

Are men hardwired to overspend?
Bling, foreclosures, rising credit card debt, bank and auto bailouts, upside down mortgages and perhaps a mid-life crisis new Corvette-all symptoms of compulsive overspending.

University of Michigan researcher Daniel Kruger looks to evolution and mating for an explanation. He theorizes that men overspend to attract mates. It all boils down, as it has for hundreds of thousands of years, to making babies.

Kruger, an assistant research scientist in the School of Public Health, tested his hypothesis in a community sample of adults aged 18-45 and observed that the degree of financial consumption was directly correlation to future mating intentions and past mating success for men but not for women.

Financial consumption was the only factor that predicted how a number of partners men wanted in the next five years and also predicted the number of partners they had in the prior five years, Kruger said. Being married made a difference in the frequency of one-time sexual partners in the last year, but not in the number of partners in the past or desired in the future.

The 25 percent of men with the most conservative financial strategies had an average of three partners in the past five years and desired an average of just one in the next five years. The 2 percent of men with the riskiest financial strategies had double those numbers.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


December 3, 2008, 5:21 AM CT

Stress-related disorders affect brains processing of memory

Stress-related disorders affect brains processing of memory
Scientists using functional MRI (fMRI) have determined that the circuitry in the area of the brain responsible for suppressing memory is dysfunctional in patients suffering from stress-related psychiatric disorders. Results of the study will be presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

"For patients with major depression and other stress-related disorders, traumatic memories are a source of anxiety," said Nivedita Agarwal, M.D., radiology resident at the University of Udine in Italy, where the study is being conducted, and research fellow at the Brain Imaging Center of McLean Hospital, Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston. "Because traumatic memories are not adequately suppressed by the brain, they continue to interfere with the patient's life".

Dr. Agarwal and his colleagues used brain fMRI to explore alterations in the neural circuitry that links the prefrontal cortex to the hippocampus, while study participants performed a memory task. Participants included 11 patients with major depression, 13 with generalized anxiety disorder, nine with panic attack disorders, five with borderline personality disorder and 21 healthy individuals. All patients reported suffering varying degrees of stressful traumatic events, such as sexual or physical abuse, difficult relationships or "mobbing" a type of bullying or harassment at some point in their lives.........

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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