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January 20, 2012, 6:41 PM CT

Autism redefined

Autism redefined
Helping an autistic child develop a "visual queue" to guide him through daily life.

Getting an autism diagnosis could be more difficult in 2013 when a revised diagnostic definition goes into effect. The proposed changes may affect the proportion of individuals who qualify for a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, as per preliminary data presented by Yale School of Medicine scientists at a meeting of the Icelandic Medical Association.

The proposed changes to the diagnostic definition would be reported in the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)." .

"Given the potential implications of these findings for service eligibility, our findings offer important information for consideration by the task force finalizing DSM-5 diagnostic criteria," said Yale Child Study Center (CSC) director Fred Volkmar, M.D., who conducted the study with CSC colleagues Brian Reichow and James McPartland.

Volkmar and his team observed that in a group of individuals without intellectual disabilities who were reviewed during the 1994 DSM-IV field trial, it was estimated that approximately half might not qualify for a diagnosis of autism under the proposed new definition.

Volkmar stressed that these preliminary findings relate only to the most cognitively able and may have less impact on diagnosis of more cognitively disabled people. "Use of such labels, especially in the United States, can have important implications for service," he said. "Major changes in diagnosis also pose issues for comparing results across research studies".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


October 4, 2011, 10:25 PM CT

Morning People and Night Owls

Morning People and Night Owls
Using data from Twitter, researchers analyzed 509 million messages from 2.4 million users in 84 countries to explore the daily, weekly and seasonal variations in people's mood cycles.

Credit: © 2011 Jupiter Images Corporation

It's true. The daily grind dealing with bosses, colleagues and repetitive work sours people's moods. But scientists say the cause appears to be something more than the work itself; people's biological clocks appears to be sending a message.

"Though it might seem intuitive to suggest that the decrease in mood level during the midday hours is a result of workday-related stress," said Scott Golder, lead researcher for a study appearing today in the journal Science, "it turns out we see the same rhythmic shape on the weekends, when people typically are not working. This suggests to us that something more enduring is going on, such as the effect of biological processes and sleep".

Golder, a graduate student in sociology at Cornell University, and sociology professor Michael Macy, recently analyzed text messages from 2.4 million users of the online social networking service Twitter to explore the daily, weekly and seasonal variations in the mood of people from 84 countries around the world.

Using Twitter.com's data access protocol, Golder and Macy collected up to 400 public messages from each user in the sample for a total of more than 509 million messages authored between February 2008 and January 2010. The scientists excluded users with fewer than 25 messages.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


July 5, 2011, 8:29 PM CT

Distract yourself or think it over?

Distract yourself or think it over?
A big part of coping with life is having a flexible reaction to the ups and downs. Now, a study which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that people choose to respond differently depending on how intense an emotion is. When confronted with high-intensity negative emotions, they tend to choose to turn their attention away, but with something lower-intensity, they tend to think it over and neutralize the feeling that way.

Emotions are useful for example, fear tells your body to get ready to escape or fight in a dangerous situation. But emotions can also become problematic for example, for people with depression who can't stop thinking about negative thoughts, says Gal Sheppes of Stanford University, who cowrote the study with Stanford colleagues Gaurav Suri and James J. Gross, and Susanne Scheibe of the University of Groningen. "Luckily, our emotions can be adjusted in various ways," he says.

Sheppes and colleagues studied two main ways that people modulate their emotions; by distracting themselves or by reappraising the situation. For example, if you're in the waiting room at the dentist, you might distract yourself from the upcoming unpleasantness by reading about celebrity breakups "Maybe that's why the magazines are there in the first place," Sheppes says or you might talk yourself through it: "I say, ok, I have to undergo this root canal, but it will make my health better, and it will pass, and I've done worse things, and I can remind myself that I'm ok".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


June 13, 2011, 7:44 AM CT

Routine screening for autism not needed

Routine screening for autism not needed
Proposals recommending routine screening of all children for autism gets a thumbs down from scientists at McMaster University.

In a study in the online edition of the journal Pediatrics, the scientists say there is "not enough sound evidence to support the implementation of a routine population-based screening program for autism".

Not only are there no good screening tools or effective therapys but there is no evidence yet that routine screening does more good than harm, said Dr. Jan Willem Gorter, a researcher in McMaster's CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research and associate professor of pediatrics.

Contrary to the McMaster researchers' findings, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended that screening for autism be incorporated into routine practice, such as a child's regular doctor check-up, regardless of whether a concern has been raised by the parents.

Autism, or the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), is a group of serious neurodevelopmental disorder with major, life-altering implications. Its symptoms include differences and disabilities in a number of areas, including social, communication skills, fine and gross motor skills, and sometimes intellectual skills.

During the past three decades, the prevalence of autism has risen dramatically to 11 cases per 1,000 school-aged children from 0.8 cases per 1,000. Reasons for this increase vary: improved detection, changes in diagnosing the disorder or an actual increase. The disorder is more common in males with a 4:1 male-to-female ratio.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


June 2, 2011, 7:51 AM CT

Single moms entering midlife may lead to public health crisis

Single moms entering midlife may lead to public health crisis
Unwed mothers face poorer health at midlife than do women who have children after marriage, as per a new nationwide study, which appears in the June 2011 issue of the American Sociological Review

Scientists observed that women who had their first child outside of marriage described their health as poorer at age 40 than did other moms.

This is the first U.S. study to document long-term negative health consequences for unwed mothers, and it has major implications for our society, said Kristi Williams, main author of the study and associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University.

About 40 percent of all births in the United States now occur to unmarried women, in comparison to less than 10 percent in 1960, Williams said. That suggests there will soon be a population boom in the United States of single mothers suffering middle-aged health problems.

"We are soon going to have a large population of single mothers who are entering midlife, when a number of health problems just begin to emerge," Williams said. "This is a looming public health crisis that has been pretty much ignored by the public and by policymakers".

Moreover, the study suggests that later marriage does not generally help reverse the negative health consequences of having a first birth outside of marriage. This calls into question the value of government efforts to promote marriage, among low-income, single mothers, at least in terms of their consequences for these women's health.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


June 2, 2011, 7:48 AM CT

Children of divorce fall behind peers in math, social skills

Children of divorce fall behind peers in math, social skills
Divorce is a drag on the academic and emotional development of young children, but only once the breakup is under way, as per a research studyof elementary school students and their families.

"Children of divorce experience setbacks in math test scores and show problems with interpersonal skills and internalizing behavior during the divorce period," says Hyun Sik Kim, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "They are more prone to feelings of anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem and sadness".

Kim's work, reported in the recent issue of American Sociological Review, makes use of data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study describing more than 3,500 U.S. elementary school students who entered kindergarten in 1998. The study, which also made subjects of parents while checking in periodically on the children, gave Kim the opportunity to track the families through divorce � as well as through periods before and after the divorce.

While the children fell behind their peers in math and certain psychological measures during the period that included the divorce, Kim was surprised to see those students showing no issues in the time period preceding the divorce.

"I expected that there would be conflict between the parents leading up to their divorce, and that that would be troublesome for their child," Kim says. "But I failed to find a significant effect in the pre-divorce period".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


May 19, 2011, 8:41 AM CT

A better mouse model to study depression

A better mouse model to study depression
Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have developed a mouse model of major depressive disorder (MDD) that is based on a rare genetic mutation that appears to cause MDD in the majority of people who inherit it. The findings, which were published online today in the American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics EarlyView, could help to clarify the brain events that lead to MDD, and contribute to the development of new and better means of therapy and prevention. This report also illustrates an advance in the design of recombinant mouse models that should be applicable to a number of human diseases.

"Major depressive disorder is a leading cause of suffering, disability and premature death from all causes including suicide. While the cause currently is unknown, twin and adoption studies indicate that genetic factors account for 40 to 70 percent of the risk for developing this common disorder," explained main author George Zubenko, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, Pitt School of Medicine.

"In this report, we describe how we constructed a laboratory mouse strain that mimics the brain mechanism that leads to major depression in humans, rather than symptoms," he said. "Nonetheless, in our initial characterization, the mutant mice exhibited several features that were reminiscent of the human disorder, including alterations of brain anatomy, gene expression, behavior, as well as increased infant mortality."........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


May 4, 2011, 5:20 PM CT

Positive effects of depression

Positive effects of depression
Sadness, apathy, preoccupation. These traits come to mind when people think about depression, the world's most frequently diagnosed mental disorder. Yet, forthcoming research in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology provides evidence that depression has a positive side-effect.

As per a newly released study by Bettina von Helversen (University of Basel, Switzerland), Andreas Wilke (Clarkson University), Tim Johnson (Stanford University), Gabriele Schmid (Technische Universit�t M�nchen, Gera number of), and Burghard Klapp (Charit� Hospital Berlin, Gera number of), depressed individuals perform better than their non-depressed peers in sequential decision tasks.

In their study, participants -- who were healthy, clinically depressed, or recovering from depression -- played a computer game in which they could earn money by hiring an applicant in a simulated job search.

The game assigned each applicant a monetary value and presented applicants one-at-a-time in random order. Experiment participants faced the challenge of determining when to halt search and select the current applicant.

In addition to resembling everyday decision problems, such as house shopping and dating, the task has a known optimal strategy. As reported, depressed patients approximated this optimal strategy more closely than non-depressed participants did.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


April 29, 2011, 8:44 AM CT

Alcohol, Mood and Me

Alcohol, Mood and Me
Thanks in part to studies that follow subjects for a long time, psychology experts are learning more about differences between people. In a new article published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, the author describes how psychology experts can use their data to learn about the different ways that people's minds work.

Most psychology research is done by asking a big group of people the same questions at the same time. "So we might get a bunch of Psych 101 undergrads, administer a survey, ask about how much they use alcohol and what their mood is, and just look and see, is there a relationship between those two variables," says Daniel J. Bauer of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the author of the article.

But a one-time survey of a bunch of college students can only get you so far. For example, it might find that sad people drink more, but it can't tell us whether people drink more at times when they are unhappy, whether the consequences of drinking instead result in a depressed mood, or whether the relationship between mood and alcohol use is stronger for some people than others.

One way psychology experts have used to learn more about people is collecting data from people over a longer time period. For example, they might give each subject an electronic device to record blood pressure and stress several times a day, or ask them to log on to a website every night to answer a survey. In one case, Bauer's colleague, Andrea Hussong, asked adolescents to complete daily diaries with ratings of their mood and alcohol use over 21 days. The data showed that the relationship between mood and alcohol use is not the same for everyone. Adolescents with behavioral problems drink more in general, irrespective of mood, but only adolescents without behavioral problems drink more often when feeling depressed.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


April 18, 2011, 6:59 AM CT

Missing the gorilla

Missing the gorilla
University of Utah psychologist Jason Watson displays a famous video showing people passing a basketball while a person in a gorilla suit walks across the screen. When unsuspecting viewers were asked to count how many times the basketball is passed, more than 40 percent failed to see the person in the gorilla suit. Watson and his colleagues conducted new research expanding on earlier work by psychologists Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons -- authors of the 2010 book "The Invisible Gorilla" -- and showing that a better "working memory capacity" explains why 58 percent of people to see the gorilla even if they are focusing on counting basketball passes.

Credit: Janelle Seegmiller, U of Utah, and Daniel Simons, U of Illinois.

University of Utah psychology experts have learned why a number of people experience "inattention blindness" � the phenomenon that leaves drivers on cell phones prone to traffic accidents and makes a gorilla invisible to viewers of a famous video.

The answer: People who fail to see something right in front of them while they are focusing on something else have lower "working memory capacity" � a measure of "attentional control," or the ability to focus attention when and where needed, and on more than one thing at a time.

"Because people are different in how well they can focus their attention, this may influence whether you'll see something you're not expecting, in this case, a person in a gorilla suit walking across the computer screen," says the study's first author, Janelle Seegmiller, a psychology doctoral student.

The study � explaining why some people are susceptible to inattention blindness and others are not � would be reported in the recent issue of The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition

Seegmiller conducted the research with two psychology faculty members � Jason Watson, an assistant professor, and David Strayer, a professor and leader of several studies about cell phone use and distracted driving.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


April 3, 2011, 9:41 AM CT

Mum's the word

Mum's the word
As part of the study, which will follow 40,000 UK households over many years, young people aged between 10 to 15 years have been asked how satisfied they are with their lives. The findings indicate that a mother's happiness in her partnership is more important to the child than the father's. The findings are based on a sample of 6,441 women, 5,384 men and 1,268 young people.

Overall, 60 per cent of young people say they are 'completely satisfied' with their family situation but in families where the child's mother is unhappy in her partnership, only 55 per cent of young people say they are 'completely happy' with their family situation � compared with 73 per cent of young people whose mothers are 'perfectly happy' in their relationships.

The Understanding Society research examined the relationships between married or cohabiting partners, and relationships between parents and their children. Professor John Ermisch, Dr Maria Iacovou, and Dr Alexandra Skew from the Institute for Social and Economic Research observed that the happiest children are those living with two parents � either biological or step � with no younger siblings, who do not quarrel with their parents regularly, who eat at least three evening meals per week with their family and whose mother is happy in her own relationship.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


April 3, 2011, 9:31 AM CT

Antidepressants linked to thicker arteries

Antidepressants linked to thicker arteries
Antidepressant use has been associated with thicker arteries, possibly contributing to the risk of heart disease and stroke, in a study of twin veterans. The data is being presented Tuesday, April 5 at the American College of Cardiology meeting in New Orleans.

Depression can heighten the risk for heart disease, but the effect of antidepressant use revealed by the study is separate and independent from depression itself, says first author Amit Shah, MD, a cardiology fellow at Emory University School of Medicine. The data suggest that antidepressants may combine with depression for a negative effect on blood vessels, he says. Shah is a researcher working with Viola Vaccarino, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Epidemiology at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health.

The study included 513 middle-aged male twins who both served in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. Twins are genetically the same but appears to be different when it comes to other risk factors such as diet, smoking and exercise, so studying them is a good way to distill out the effects of genetics, Shah says.

Scientists measured carotid intima-media thickness � the thickness of the lining of the main arteries in the neck -- by ultrasound. Among the 59 pairs of twins where only one brother took antidepressants, the one taking the drugs tended to have higher carotid intima-media thickness (IMT), even when standard heart disease risk factors were taken into account. The effect was seen both in twins with or without a prior heart attack or stroke. A higher level of depressive symptoms was linked to higher IMT only in those taking antidepressants.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


March 30, 2011, 10:54 PM CT

A woman's blues bring a relationship down

A woman's blues bring a relationship down
Depression erodes intimate relationships. A depressed person can be withdrawn, needy, or hostile�and give little back.

But there's another way that depression isolates partners from each other. It chips away at the ability to perceive the others' thoughts and feelings. It impairs what psychology experts call "empathic accuracy" �and that can exacerbate alienation, depression, and the cycle by which they feed each other.

Three Israeli researchers�Reuma Gadassi and Nilly Mor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Eshkol Rafaeli at Bar-Ilan University�wanted to understand better these dynamics in relationships, especially the role of gender. Their study will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

The study revealed a surprising dynamic: "It's called the partner effect," said Gadassi, a psychology graduate student. She explained: "Women's depression affects their own accuracy. But it also affected their partner's accuracy"�in both cases, negatively.

Fifty heterosexual couples�some married, some cohabiting, and together an average of about five years�took part in the study. First, a questionnaire assessed their levels of depression. Then, their interpersonal perceptions were tested both in the lab and in daily life.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


March 28, 2011, 7:06 AM CT

Some women worry too much about breast

Some women worry too much about breast
Most women face only a small risk of breast cancer coming back after they complete their therapy. Yet a newly released study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center finds that nearly half of Latinas who speak little English expressed a great deal of worry about recurrence.

"Some worry about cancer recurrence is understandable. But for some women, these worries can be so strong that they impact their therapy decisions, symptom reporting and screening behaviors, and overall quality of life," says study author Nancy K. Janz, Ph.D., professor of health behavior and health education at the U-M School of Public Health.

The scientists found substantial variation based on racial or ethnic background, with Latinas who speak primarily Spanish expressing the most worry and African-Americans expressing the least worry. For Latinas, the scientists considered acculturation, a measure of how much a person is integrated into American society. For Latinas, a significant factor is whether they speak primarily English or Spanish.

While 46 percent of Latinas who spoke primarily Spanish reported they worry "very much" about recurrence, that number drops to 25 percent for Latinas who speak primarily English, 14 percent for white women and 13 percent for African-Americans.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


March 25, 2011, 7:10 AM CT

Psychiatric symptoms in children with epilepsy

Psychiatric symptoms in children with epilepsy
A newly published report reveals that children with epilepsy are more likely to have psychiatric symptoms, with gender a determining factor in their development. Findings showed that girls had more emotional problems, while boys had more hyperactivity/inattention problems and issues regarding peer relationships. Details of this study in Norwegian children are now available online in Epilepsia, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the International League Against Epilepsy.

Prior studies have shown that children with epilepsy are at increased risk of developing behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders including anxiety, depression, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In a 2003 population-based study, psychiatric disorders were reported in 37% of children with epilepsy, while children with diabetes and those in the healthy control group were much lower at 11% and 9%, respectively (Davies et al., 2003). Medical evidence, however, has not clearly established when children or teens with epilepsy appears to be vulnerable to developing psychiatric issues, or how gender influences psychopathology in epilepsy.

The current study used data collected by the Norwegian Health Services Research Centre in a 2002 health profile questionnaire. For children in the 8-13 years of age group, there were 14,699 (response rate of 78%) parents who completed the questionnaire which included questions on topics such as sociodemographic conditions, physical and mental health, and psychosocial conditions. To assess psychiatric symptoms, scientists used the parent report of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) which included questions covering four problem domains�emotional symptoms, conduct problems, hyperactivity-inattention, and peer problems�and prosocial behavior. The SDQ scores were classified as normal, borderline, or abnormal.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


March 20, 2011, 10:19 PM CT

How do consumers estimate a good time?

How do consumers estimate a good time?
Consumers estimate they'll spend more time enjoying activities when the tasks are broken down into components, as per a newly released study in the Journal of Consumer Research But using the same process for an unpleasant event decreases time estimates.

"It has been well established that predicted consumption time plays a central role in consumers' assessments and purchase decisions," write authors Claire I. Tsai and Min Zhao (both University of Toronto). "If consumers foresee spending a lot of time using a product or service (such as gym membership or cable TV), they are more likely to purchase it".

In three experiments with 500 participants the authors observed that consumers' predicted consumption time was influenced by their evaluation of the consumption experience (positive or negative) and the way the experience was represented. "Unpacking a pleasurable event into several subactivities increases the time consumers expect to spend on the event," the authors write.

When consumers face an unpleasant event, the more constituent components they consider, the greater displeasure they expect. "People have a lay belief that they will spend more time on pleasant events than unpleasant ones, so the changes in predicted enjoyment or displeasure caused by unpacking systematically influence the amount of time consumers expect to spend using a product or service," the authors write.........

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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