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April 23, 2006, 10:49 PM CT

Alcoholism And Chronic Smoking Can Damage Brain

Alcoholism And Chronic Smoking Can Damage Brain
Alcoholism is usually associated with chronic smoking, and both alcohol and nicotine are believed to act on the same brain region. A study in the recent issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research builds upon prior research that identified four potential alcohol-sensitive genes in the prefrontal cortex, finding that smoking also influences the expression of these genes.

"Nicotine and alcohol are both addictive drugs," said Traute Flatscher-Bader, a postdoctoral research officer at the Alcohol Research Unit of the University of Queensland, Brisbane and corresponding author for the study. "They act on the same brain region, the 'drug reward pathway' or mesocorticolimbic system (MDS). The MDS contains the 'feel-good' neurotransmitter dopamine. Acute nicotine and alcohol cause an imbalance within the MDS by artificially increasing dopamine levels through direct and/or indirect modulation of dopaminergic neurons. While the long-term effect of alcoholism on the human brain has been investigated, surprisingly little is known about the long-term effect of nicotine on specific regions of the drug reward pathway in the human brain."

"Studies into the molecular changes that alcohol and smoking have on the body and especially the brain are crucial for understanding the disease state," said Nikki Zuvela, a doctoral student in molecular neuroscience at The University of Queensland. "There are actual molecular changes to parts of the brain involved in developing addiction; most importantly, within those centres known to mediate desire, craving, pleasure, self control, decision making, fear and emotion."........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source


April 23, 2006, 10:42 PM CT

Attention shoppers: Neurons that encode the value of different goods

Attention shoppers: Neurons that encode the value of different goods
Scientists at Harvard Medical School (HMS) report in the April 23 issue of Nature that they have identified neurons that encode the values that subjects assign to different items. The activity of these neurons might facilitate the process of decision-making that occurs when someone chooses between different goods.

"We have long known that different neurons in various parts of the brain respond to separate attributes, such as quantity, color, and taste. But when we make a choice, for example: between different foods, we combine all these attributes--we assign a value to each available item," says Camillo Padoa-Schioppa, PhD, HMS research fellow in neurobiology and lead author of the paper. "The neurons we have identified encode the value individuals assign to the available items when they make choices based on subjective preferences, a behavior called 'economic choice.'".

Everyday examples of economic choice include choosing between working and earning more or enjoying more leisure time, or choosing to invest in bonds or in stocks. Such choices have long been studied by economists and psychology experts. In particular, research in behavioral economics shows that in numerous circumstances, peoples' choices violate the criteria of economic rationality. This motivates a currently growing interest for the neural bases of economic choice--an emerging field called "neuroeconomics." In general, it is believed that economic choice involves assigning values to available options. However, the underlying brain mechanisms are not well understood.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


April 23, 2006, 10:39 PM CT

Groups Perform Better Than The Best Individual

Groups Perform Better Than The Best Individual
Groups of three, four, or five perform better on complex problem solving than the best of an equivalent number of individuals, says a new study appearing in the recent issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA). This finding may transfer to scientific research teams and classroom problem solving and offer new ways for students to study and improve academic performance, as per the study authors.

In this study 760 students from the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign solved two letters-to-numbers coding problems as individuals or as groups of two, three, four and five people. Prior research has shown that groups perform better than the average individual on a wide range of problems. However, this study tested the relationship between group size and performance as compared to that of an equivalent number of individuals by comparing the number of trials to solutions and answers given for complex problems. The groups of three, four, and five performed better than the best of an equivalent number of individuals on the letters-to-numbers problems.

"We found that groups of size three, four, and five outperformed the best individuals and attribute this performance to the ability of people to work together to generate and adopt correct responses, reject erroneous responses, and effectively process information," said lead author Patrick Laughlin, PhD., of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source


April 20, 2006, 0:40 AM CT

Hypnotherapy Relieves Chest Pain

Hypnotherapy Relieves Chest Pain
Hypnotherapy seems to relieve severe chest pain that is not caused by a heart condition, known as non-cardiac chest pain, suggests a small study published ahead of print in Gut.

Around a third of patients investigated for chest pain believed to be caused by coronary artery disease have no identifiable cause for their pain. Nevertheless they often continue to be severely incapacitated by it, despite reassurances that there is nothing to worry about. Young women seem to be especially prone to the condition.

The cause of non-cardiac chest pain is unknown, eventhough several factors have been implicated, including acid reflux and psychological problems. The condition is notoriously difficult to treat.

Scientists randomly divided 28 patients with the condition into two groups. One group received 12 sessions of hypnotherapy over 17 weeks; the other group were given "supportive treatment" plus dummy medicine (placebo).

Of the 15 people treated with hypnotherapy, 80% reported significant pain relief, eventhough there was no change in frequency of bouts of pain, compared with just three of the 13 people treated with supportive treatment and placebo.

Hypnotherapy also significantly improved the sense of overall wellbeing and reduced the use of painkillers and other drugs prescribed to control the condition. By contrast, the group treated with supportive treatment increased their drug intake.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


April 17, 2006, 10:19 PM CT

A Gene For Excessive Drinking

A Gene For Excessive Drinking
Scientists supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), have identified new genes that may contribute to excessive alcohol consumption. The new study, conducted with strains of animals that have either a high or low innate preference for alcohol, provides clues about the molecular mechanisms that underlie the tendency to drink heavily. A report of the findings appears in the April 18, 2006 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"These findings provide a wealth of new insights into the molecular determinants of excessive drinking, which could lead to a better understanding of alcoholism," notes NIAAA Director Ting-Kai Li, M.D. "They also underscore the value that animal models bring to the investigation of complex human disorders such as alcohol dependence."

Mice that have been selectively bred to have either a high or low preference for alcohol have been a mainstay of alcohol research for a number of years, allowing researchers to study diverse behavioral and physiological characteristics of alcohol dependence. In the current study, NIAAA grantee Susan E. Bergeson, Ph.D., of the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, and a multi-site team of researchers participating in NIAAA's Integrative Neuroscience Initiative on Alcoholism (INIA) used microarray techniques to study gene expression in the brains of these animals. Microarrays are powerful tools that researchers use for comprehensive analyses of gene activity.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


April 17, 2006, 8:46 AM CT

TV Viewing During Lunch

TV Viewing During Lunch
In a recent Penn State laboratory study, preschool children who commonly eat meals at home while watching TV ate one-third more lunch when they were shown a cartoon video during lunchtime versus when they ate lunch without TV.

The children who did not eat in front of the TV at home and for whom TV viewing during meals and snack was novel, actually ate significantly less on the days the lunchtime cartoon was shown compared to the days on which there was no video.

Dr. Lori Francis, assistant professor of biobehavioral health and first author of the recently published paper on the study, "The study shows that TV viewing can either increase or decrease preschool children's food intakes and suggests that when children consistently view TV during meals, TV viewing may distract children from normal fullness cues which can lead to overeating in children as it may in adults".

In their paper, the scientists write, "To promote self-regulation of energy intake in young children, parents and caregivers should be advised against providing opportunities for children to eat during TV viewing".

The results of the study are detailed in, "Does Eating During Television Viewing Affect Preschool Children's Intake?," reported in the recent issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. The authors are Francis and Dr. Leann L. Birch, distinguished professor of human development and family studies, at Penn State.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


April 15, 2006, 1:53 PM CT

How Others Influence Our Behavior

How Others Influence Our Behavior
An article reported in the latest issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science finds that we are tied to each other-- what other people do and how they express their feelings is a contagious, strong influence. Stirring in the background of our minds are the influences of other people that affect us without our knowledge or recognition.

For example when scientists showed individuals a picture of a library and instructed them to go there after the experiment, participants began to speak more softly, without being aware of why. Similarly, when primed to be rude, individuals interrupted a speaker, while those primed to be polite did not.

The article argues that we should not assume we are aware of most of the important influences on our behavior and judgments, and to accept that there are influences we do not know about. Only then would one have a chance at counteracting those influences and regaining control. At the same time, however, we can be reassured by the knowledge that these automatic influences over us are typically benign, and help keep us in touch with our present circumstances while our conscious mind is time-traveling into the past (memory) or the future (planning).........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


April 13, 2006, 0:20 AM CT

Night Shift May Lead To Family Nightmares

Night Shift May Lead To Family Nightmares
In the current issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family, scientists examine our 24-hour economy and the effect of its need for workers 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. They find that unsociable work times (hours during evenings, weekends, or nights) are associated with poorer mental health in parents and more social and emotional difficulties in children.

Compared with families where both parents work standard daytime hours, families where fathers work nonstandard hours show worse family functioning and more hostile and ineffective parenting. When it is mothers who work these hours, there is also worse family functioning, more hostile and ineffective parenting, and more parent distress. The most problematic family environments occur when both parents work nonstandard hours.

The study compared more than 4,000 dual-earner households with children between 2 and 11 years old. The authors measured child difficulties (e.g. the inability to concentrate or hostility to their peers), family functioning (e.g. emotional involvement and problem solving), parent depressive symptoms, and ineffective parenting. The effects were similar whether the mother or father worked non-standard hours.

But these associations were stronger in households with preschool-aged children compared to those homes with school-aged children. In the past, nonstandard work schedules had been viewed as part of job flexibility that was potentially family friendly. The findings from this research pose a challenge to that assumption. "Work in the evenings, nights, and weekends can make it harder to maintain family rituals, routines, and social activities that are important for closeness," the authors explain.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source


April 11, 2006, 11:10 PM CT

Absence Of Wedding Ring Linked To Parental Neglect

Absence Of Wedding Ring Linked To Parental Neglect
A social psychology expert at the University of Alberta claims that people who do not wear wedding rings are more neglectful of children compared to people who wear them. Further, Dr. Andrew Harrell states that young attractive people who do not wear wedding rings are the most neglectful child caretakers of all.

The director of the U of A Population Research Lab, Harrell made his conclusions after leading an experiment in which 862 caretaker-children combinations were furtively observed in 14 supermarkets in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Caretaker neglect was measured as per how often the caretakers or their charges, estimated to be between one and seven years-old, wandered out of sight or were more than 10 feet away from each other--too far to prevent most accidents.

Harrell found that an average of 14 per cent of the caretakers, with or without wedding rings, lost sight of their charges at least once. However, young attractive female caretakers without rings lost sight of children 19 per cent of the time, and young attractive males lost sight 25 per cent of the time, a "statistically significant" jump, Harrell said.

"Past research suggests that the absence of a wedding ring in North American culture is indicative of a lack of emotional commitment to marriage," said Harrell. "Our research shows that it may also be an indicator of a lack of a commitment to one's family, including care of the children."........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


April 11, 2006, 11:00 PM CT

Older Children Not Smarter Than Their Younger Sibs

Older Children Not Smarter Than Their Younger Sibs
A recent study provides some of the best evidence to date that birth order really doesn't have an effect on intelligence.

The findings contradict a number of studies over the years that had reported that older children are generally smarter than their younger siblings.

This new study, based on a large, nationwide sample, suggests a critical flaw in that prior research, said Aaron Wichman, lead author of the new study and a teaching fellow in psychology at Ohio State University.

Most prior studies compared children from different families, so what they were finding were differences between large and small families, not differences between siblings, as per Wichman.

"Third- and fourth-born children all come from larger families, and larger families have disadvantages that will impact children's intelligence," he said.

"In reality, if you look at these larger families, the fourth-born child is just as intelligent as the first-born. But they all don't do as well as children from a smaller family."

Wichman conducted the study with Joseph Lee Rodgers of the University of Oklahoma and Robert MacCallum of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and professor emeritus of psychology at Ohio State. Their findings were published in a recent issue of the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.........

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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