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March 6, 2007, 4:57 AM CT

Who is happy?

Who is happy?
Psychology experts have been fond of stating in recent years that human happiness, or what psychology experts call subjective well-being, is largely independent of our life circumstances. The wealthy arent much happier than the middle class, married people arent much happier than single people, healthy people arent much happier than sick people, and so on.

One might reasonably conclude, therefore, that changes in life circumstances would not have long-term effects on our happiness. This indeed has been the dominant model of subjective well-being: People adapt to major life events, both positive and negative, and our happiness pretty much stays constant through our lives, even if it is occasionally perturbed. Winning the lottery wont make you happier in the long run (goes the theory), and while a divorce or even a major illness will throw your life into upheaval for a while, your happiness level will eventually return to where it was at beforethat is, its set point.

But new research, and reexamination of old research, is challenging some of the claims of set-point theory.

In the recent issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, Richard E. Lucas of Michigan State University and the German Institute for Economic Research, reviews some recent studies suggesting that adaptation to changing life circumstances only goes so far. "Happiness levels do change, adaptation is not inevitable, and life events do matter," Lucas asserts.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

March 5, 2007, 9:57 PM CT

Protein That Appears To Regulate Bone Mass Loss

Protein That Appears To Regulate Bone Mass Loss
Typically an estimated ten million americans suffer from osteoporosis, and another 34 million americans are at risk of developing the disease, which is characterized by a severe loss of bone mineral density, fragile bones and an increased risk of hip, spine and wrist fractures. The basic mechanism behind osteoporosis involves an imbalance between bone mineral formation and loss, but the detailed biological processes that lead to this imbalance are not completely understood. Now scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and his colleagues are reporting new insights into the biology of bone loss based on a study of 14 people with a rare genetic disorder called X-linked Hyper IgM Syndrome.

X-linked Hyper IgM Syndrome strikes about one in a million American--all males--and is caused by a deficiency in an important immune system protein known as CD40 ligand. This protein is crucial for the development and maturation of immune cells, and without it people with X-linked Hyper IgM Syndrome are susceptible to a range of opportunistic infections. Last year, an NIAID doctor treating children with this disease found that several of them sustained unexplained rib fractures that he hypothesized could be, like osteoporosis, caused by a loss of bone mineral density. A new study, published online this week, confirms this unexpected connection. CD40 ligand appears to regulate cells that secrete chemicals that block bone metabolism, and the loss of this protein in people with X-linked Hyper IgM Syndrome appears to accelerate bone loss. The next step, say the researchers, is to determine whether experimental therapys designed to correct the immune deficiency of X-linked Hyper IgM Syndrome can also reverse the bone loss. If so, the knowledge gained from these studies may benefit people who are at risk of developing osteoporosis.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source

March 5, 2007, 5:07 AM CT

Severe PTSD damages children's brains

Severe PTSD damages children's brains
Severe stress can damage a child's brain, say scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. The scientists observed that children with post-traumatic stress disorder and high levels of the stress hormone cortisol were likely to experience a decrease in the size of the hippocampus - a brain structure important in memory processing and emotion.

Eventhough similar effects have been seen in animal studies, this is the first time the findings have been replicated in children. The scientists focused on kids in extreme situations to better understand how stress affects brain development.

"We're not talking about the stress of doing your homework or fighting with your dad," said Packard Children's child psychiatry expert Victor Carrion, MD. "We're talking about traumatic stress. These kids feel like they're stuck in the middle of a street with a truck barreling down at them".

Carrion, assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the medical school and director of Stanford's early life stress research program, and his collaborators speculate that cognitive deficits arising from stress hormones interfere with psychiatric treatment and prolong symptoms.

The children in the study were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, as a result of undergoing physical, emotional or sexual abuse, witnessing violence or experiencing lasting separation and loss. This type of developmental trauma often impairs the child's ability to reach social, emotional and academic milestones.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

March 5, 2007, 5:05 AM CT

Childhood obesity may contribute to earlier puberty

Childhood obesity may contribute to earlier puberty
Increasing rates of childhood obesity and overweight in the United States may be contributing to an earlier onset of puberty in girls, say scientists at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.

In a new study reported in the recent issue of the journal Pediatrics, the scientists reveal that a higher body mass index (BMI) score in girls as young as age 3, and large increases in BMI between 3 years of age and first grade are linked to earlier puberty, defined as the presence of breast development by age 9. This longitudinal study is unique in that it included girls younger than age 5 to examine the association between weight status and timing of puberty.

"Our finding that increased body fatness is linked to the earlier onset of puberty provides additional evidence that growing rates of obesity among children in this country may be contributing to the trend of early maturation in girls," says lead author and U-M pediatric endocrinologist Joyce Lee, M.D, MPH.

Studies have suggested that girls in the United States are entering puberty at younger ages today than they were 30 years ago, says Lee. Since rates of childhood obesity also have significantly increased during the same time period, scientists have speculated that childhood obesity may be contributing to a trend of earlier puberty in girls.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

March 5, 2007, 5:02 AM CT

Teenagers with retail, service jobs

Teenagers with retail, service jobs
Despite federal regulations intended to protect them, a number of teenagers in the U.S. use dangerous equipment or work long hours during the school week, as per a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study.

The national study was based on telephone surveys of 928 teenaged workers, 14 to 18 years old. The results show 52 percent of males and 43 percent of females use dangerous equipment such a box crushers and slicers, or serve and sell alcohol where it is consumed, despite federal child labor laws prohibiting these practices.

The results were reported in the March 1, 2007 editor of the journal Pediatrics.

Additionally, 84 percent of females and 61 percent of males handle cash in their jobs, exposing them to risks linked to robberies. Homicides during robberies were the cause of up to one half of all youth fatalities in the retail trade.

"A number of teenagers start working at an early age, and most find jobs in retail or service industries. Our aim is to examine the conditions under which they are working, and suggest ways to protect them at work," said lead study author Carol Runyan, Ph.D., director of UNC's Injury Prevention Research Center (IPRC) and professor of health behavior and health education in the UNC School of Public Health.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source

March 2, 2007, 5:05 AM CT

A key to male fertility

A key to male fertility
Until now, mutations of the LH hormone receptor were the only explanation known for sexual precocity in boys. A team at the Institute of Genetics and Molecular and Cellular Biology (IGBMC, CNRS / Inserm / Universit Louis Pasteur de Strasbourg)), in collaboration with scientists at the University of Dallas and the University of Louvain, has just identified a key regulator of male fertility, the SHP protein, bringing to light the major role it plays in controlling the synthesis of testosterone and in differentiation of germ cells in mouse testes. This work, reported in the journal Genes & Development, suggests that it is worth exploring the signalling pathways controlled by SHP in men suffering from fertility disorders.

Puberty is the result of endocrine alterations programmed from the moment of sexual differentiation in the embryo and ftus. Typically it is characterized by anatomical alterations: the maturation of primary sexual characteristics (penis, scrotum and testes) and the appearance of secondary sexual characteristics (hair growth, breaking of the voice, growth, etc). Such changes are caused by processes within the brain, and in particular by a neuroendocrine gland, the pituitary gland, which secretes two hormones, FSH and LH. Both these hormones act on the testes, causing the production of sperm as well as the secretion of testosterone. Testosterone in particular is responsible for the development of secondary sexual characteristics in boys. At the current time, mutations of the LH receptor are the only known causes of sexual precocity in boys, which shows the important role that this signaling pathway plays in the control of the endocrine system.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source

March 1, 2007, 9:42 PM CT

Treating male infertility with stem cells

Treating male infertility with stem cells
Los Angeles, CA -- New research has examined the usefulness of bone marrow stem cells for treating male infertility, with promising results. The related report by Lue et al, Fate of bone marrow stem cells transplanted into the testis: potential implication for men with testicular failure, appears in the recent issue of The American Journal of Pathology.

When a couple experiences infertility, the man is just as likely as the woman to be the cause. Male infertility may arise from failed proliferation and differentiation of the germ cells (precursors of sperm) or from dysfunction of the supporting cells. New research is looking to stem cells as a means of replacing nonfunctioning cells, whether germ cells or supporting cells.

Researchers, directed by Dr. Ronald S. Swerdloff of the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, collected bone marrow stem cells from mice expressing the green fluorescent protein (GFP). These green cells, which could be easily tracked in recipient mice, were injected into the testes of infertile mice, in which infertility was induced either chemically or genetically (via mutations in a gene mandatory for sperm production).

The donor GFP-expressing cells took up residence in the testes and survived within the recipient mice for the entire 12-week study period. The donor stem cells displayed the characteristic shape of either germ cells or supporting cells, suggesting that the stem cells had differentiated. These differentiated donor (green) cells were also found near the native recipient cells of the same type, demonstrating that the local cellular environment likely influenced the fate of the donor stem cells.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source

March 1, 2007, 5:00 AM CT

Children with sleep disorders

Children with sleep disorders
Parents of children with sleep problems are more likely to have sleep-related problems themselves, including more daytime sleepiness, as per a new study by scientists at the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center and Brown Medical School.

"While most parents can testify that having a child with sleeping problems affects their own sleep, few scientific studies have looked at the relationship between children's and parents' sleep," says lead author Julie Boergers, PhD, with the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center and Brown Medical School, and co-director of the Pediatric Sleep Disorders Clinic of Hasbro Children's Hospital.

The authors studied 107 families seeking therapy for their children aged 2 to 12 at a pediatric sleep disorders clinic, and found a link between children's and parents' sleep problems. For both parents, having a child with more than one sleep disorder was linked to greater parental daytime sleepiness. Children in the study had a broad range of sleep problems, including obstructive sleep apnea, sleep terrors, insomnia, and bedtime refusal.

The study appears in the March 2007 issue of the Journal of Family Psychology.

They also observed that the link between parental and child sleep was especially apparent for mothers. That is, within families, mothers of children with sleep disorders had significantly greater daytime sleepiness than fathers, even though they reported about the same number of hours of sleep per night.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

February 28, 2007, 9:39 PM CT

Internet Does Not Provide Behavioral Counseling

Internet Does Not Provide Behavioral Counseling
A national survey of commercial health plans has observed that most plans provide online information regarding mental health and substance abuse but few provide clinical services such as counseling via the Internet. The nationally representative health plan survey, published in Psychiatric Services, and led by Dr. Constance Horgan at Brandeis University, is one of the first to examine the prevalence of health plan-sponsored online resources for behavioral health.

"Our study is part of an ongoing effort to determine how health insurers allocate resources for alcohol and substance abuse therapyhistorically an undermet need," said Horgan, director of the Institute for Behavioral Health, The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis.

The survey sampled 60 nationally representative markets and included health maintenance organizations, preferred provider organizations and point-of-service plans. Most private health plans offered online provider directories; 81 percent offered educational information; two thirds offered behavioral self-assessment tools, and almost half offered online referral. About one-third offered personalized responses to questions or problems. Only two percent offered online counseling.

"Delivering behavioral health services such as counseling certainly raises more complex clinical, professional, privacy, and legal issues, than, for example, offering educational information," said Horgan. "At least in the short term, increasing use of Internet-based tools designed to facilitate and complement, rather than replace, traditional clinical services seems most likely".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

February 28, 2007, 9:30 PM CT

Color Red Can Affect How People Function

Color Red Can Affect How People Function
The color red can affect how people function: Red means danger and commands us to stop in traffic. Scientists at the University of Rochester have now observed that red also can keep us from performing our best on tests.

If test takers are aware of even a hint of red, performance on a test will be affected to a significant degree, say scientists at Rochester and the University of Munich. The scientists article in the recent issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General on the effect of red on intellectual performance reveals that color associations are so strong and embedded so deeply that people are predisposed to certain reactions when they see red.

Andrew J. Elliot, lead author and professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, and his co-authors observed that when people see even a flash of red before being tested, they associate the color with mistakes and failures. In turn, they do poorly on the test. Red, of course, is traditionally linked to marking errors on school papers.

"Color clearly has aesthetic value, but it can also carry specific meaning and convey specific information," says Elliot. "Our study of avoidance motivation is part and parcel of that".

Four experiments demonstrated that the brief perception of red previous to an important testsuch as an IQ test or a major examactually impaired performance. Two further experiments also established the link between red and avoidance motivation when task choice and psychophysiological measures were applied.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

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Did you know?
Adolescents who suffer physical injuries are vulnerable to emotional distress in the months following their hospitalization, yet almost 40 percent of hospitalized adolescents interviewed for a new study had no source for the follow-up medical care that could diagnose and treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress. These young trauma survivors are at risk for high levels of post-traumatic stress and depressive symptoms, as well as high levels of alcohol use, according to research by researchers at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center. Archives of society medical news blog

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