Tag Archives: psychology

Do gut bacteria rule our minds? In an ecosystem within us, microbes evolved to sway food choices

In an article published this week in the journal BioEssays, researchers from UC San Francisco, Arizona State University and University of New Mexico concluded from a review of the recent scientific literature that microbes influence human eating behavior and dietary choices to favor consumption of the particular nutrients they grow best on, rather than simply passively living off whatever nutrients we choose to send their way. Bacterial species vary in the nutrients they need. …

Expressive writing may help breast cancer survivors — ScienceDaily

“The key to developing an expressive writing intervention is the writing instruction. Otherwise, writing is just like a journal recording facts and events. Writing a journal can be therapeutic, but oftentimes we don’t get the empirical evidence to determine whether it’s effective or not,” said Qian Lu, assistant professor and director of the Culture and Health Research Center at UH…

Two behavioral interventions help cancer patients struggling with sleep issues

"Insomnia and disturbed sleep are significant problems that can affect approximately half of all cancer patients," said lead study author Sheila Garland, PhD, a Clinical Psychology Post-Doctoral Fellow at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center in Integrative Oncology and Behavioral Sleep Medicine. "If not properly addressed, sleep disturbances can negatively influence therapeutic and supportive care measures for these patients, so it’s critical that clinicians can offer patients reliable, effective, and tailored interventions." Estimates suggest that anywhere between 36 to 59 percent of patients with cancer experience disturbed sleep and insomnia symptoms during and after the completion of cancer treatment, with up to 28 percent meeting a formal diagnosis of insomnia. While there are effective drugs that can help treat insomnia, Garland says that many cancer patients express a desire not to take additional medications due to concerns about side effects and the possibility of developing a dependence on the medication. The new study involved 111 cancer patients recruited from a cancer center in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, to one of two randomly assigned interventions for their insomnia, either CBT-I (47) or MBSR (64)…

Normal or not? When temper tantrums become a disorder

Angry kids who throw excessive, explosive tantrums now have their own disorder: disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. Whereas this new addition to the mental health dictionary, the DSM, has prompted protests that psychiatrists are turning a normal part of childhood into a mental disorder, proponents say it will address the skyrocketing rate of another diagnosis that is leading to the inappropriate use of powerful medications on children. The soaring diagnoses belong to pediatric cases of bipolar disorder. Between 1994-1995 and 2002-2003, the diagnosis of bipolar disorder in children grew by 40-fold, according to research published in 2007 in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry. [11 New Warning Signs Help Spot Mental Illness in Children] Many of these children exhibited a pattern not consistent with a bipolar diagnosis. Specifically, bipolar disorder involves episodes of mania, which can show up in children as irritability. However, many of the children diagnosed did not have clear-cut episodes of irritability, instead, they were constantly irritable. As a result, experts believe many children are being misdiagnosed. Bipolar disorder is often treated with medications that bring worrisome side effects that are worse in children, according to the advocacy group the National Alliance on Mental Illness. These include weight gain that brings increased risk of diabetes or heart problems later in life, movement abnormalities and other problems. When it came time to put together the new edition of the mental health manual, called the DSM-5, officials at the American Psychiatric Association, which publishes the manual, wanted to include a better-fitting diagnosis for kids with persistently angry, irritable dispositions, hence the addition of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD). However, the addition is controversial. Allen Frances, who chaired the task force for the previous edition of DSM, charges that this new DMDD diagnosis “will exacerbate, not relieve, the already excessive and inappropriate use of medicationin young children.” The addition of DMDD could prove helpful, because it will enable researchers to study these symptoms in children who have previously been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but who dont fit the profile for that disorder, said Robin Rosenberg, a clinical psychologist and co-author of the psychology textbook “Abnormal Psychology” (Worth Publishers, 2009). “The concern is that it will lower the threshold for diagnosing kids who are just having a hard time,” Rosenberg said. “There is a gain and there is a risk. If it becomes overly diagnosed, it will prevent us from figuring out what is going on with kids who really have this persistent problem with mood and behavior and, more importantly, needlessly put children on dangerous medications.” Tantrums and bad moods are normal parts of childhood. But to receive a DMDD diagnosis, a child must have rages that are “grossly out of proportion” three or more times per week, on average. The child's mood between outbursts must be “irritable or angry most of the day, nearly every day,” according to the DMDD criteria, which set a threshold of at least 12 months. Kids who might qualify for this new diagnosis may come to the attention of mental health professionals because they have serious behavioral trouble at school or their parents may be unable to control them at home, Rosenberg said. Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.source : http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/06/17/normal-or-not-when-temper-tantrums-become-disorder/

Energy drinks no better than caffeine, study suggests

Despite the “special blend” of ingredients, energy drinks work no better than ordinary caffeine at helping us pay attention, a new study suggests. In the study, researchers examined participants' brain activity while they performed a task designed to require attention. Specifically, the researchers looked at how fast the brain responded to a change in letters appearing on a computer screen. Before the task, participants consumed 8 ounces of either water, water with caffeine, or water containing the energy drink 5-Hour Energy. The caffeinated drinks were adjusted so that they had the same amount of caffeine per pound of participants' body weight, and all drinks were colored blue. During the task, participants who drank the caffeinated drinks had faster brain responses, compared with those who drank plain water. But there was no difference in brain activity between those who consumed caffeinated water, and those who consumed 5-Hour Energy. More from LiveScience “A lot of people take the energy drinks because they think they have that extra boost over caffeine,” said study researcher Chelsea Benham, a student at Centre College in Danville, Ky. But the study shows “there's really no difference,” Benham said. In terms of boosting attention, a cup of coffee “would do you just as well,” if it had the same amount of caffeine as an energy drink, she said. A 2-ounce bottle of 5-Hour Energy contains about 215 milligrams of caffeine, the equivalent of about two cups of coffee. An advantage of 5-Hour Energy is that it contains a concentrated amount of caffeine — people need to consume a larger volume of coffee to get the same amount of caffeine. However, there has been concern over the safety of energy drinks in general because of their ability to deliver high doses of caffeine in such a concentrated form. Last year, the FDA said it had received reports of health problems linked with 5-Hour Energy, including heart attacks and death, although the reports do not prove that the energy drink was the cause of these problems. Some health experts have been concerned about the combination of compounds in energy drinks, and are calling for more research to determine what amount is safe to consume. Energy drinks can contain chemicals such as guarana, taurine, L-carnitine, ginseng and yohimbine. In the new study, researchers also did not find a difference in participants' physical reaction times (on a test that involved clicking a computer mouse when a particular letter appeared on a screen), regardless of whether they consumed a caffeinated or non- caffeinated drink. Benham said this may have been because the test took only 20 minutes. Over a longer period, she said she suspects there would be a difference. The study was presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science in Washington, D.C., on May 26. Benham conducted the work with her adviser, KatieAnn Skogsberg, an assistant professor of psychology and behavioral neuroscience at Centre College. Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.source : http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/06/05/energy-drinks-no-better-than-caffeine-study-suggests/

Simple vision test may predict IQ

A simple visual test is surprisingly accurate at predicting IQ, according to new research. The study, published May 23 in the journal Current Biology, found that people's ability to efficiently filter out visual information in the background and focus on the foreground is strongly linked to IQ. The findings could help scientists identify the brain processes responsible for intelligence. That doesn't mean snappy, efficient visual processing leads to smarts, said study co-author Duje Tadin, a neuroscientist at the University of Rochester in New York. Instead, common brain processes may underlie both intelligence and efficient visual processing. IQ hunting Since the 1800s, the forefathers of IQ testing, including Sir Francis Galton (who also pioneered the science of fingerprinting), suspected that highly intelligent people also have supersensory discrimination. But studies in the subsequent decades have found only a modest connection between IQ-test scores and peoples ability to quickly or accurately spot motion in images. Tadin and his colleagues were studying a separate question on visual perception in 12 participants when they found something striking: IQ seemed to be correlated strongly with performance on a visual task. The test asked users to spot the direction of motion on a series of black-and-white stripes on a screen. Sometimes, the lines formed inside a small central circle, and other times, they were large stripes that took up the entire screen. Participants also completed a short IQ test. [Watch Video of Motion and Test Your Smarts] The team noticed that people with higher IQs were good at spotting motion in the small circles, but terrible at detecting motion in the larger black-and-white stripes. Because they had looked at so few people, Tadin and his colleagues wondered if their results were a fluke. They repeated the experiment with 53 people, who also took a full IQ test. The ability to visually filter the motion strongly predicted IQ in fact, motion suppression (the ability to focus on the action and ignore background movements) was as predictive of total IQ as individual subsections of the IQ test itself. Relevant information As people walk, the background scenery is always changing, so efficient brains may be better at filtering out this irrelevant visual information. And that efficiency could be operating across a wide range of tasks, Tadin said. “What happens in brains of high-IQ people is, they're automatically processing motion of small moving objects efficiently, whereas they're suppressing the background,” Tadin said. The findings reshape the conventional view that quick thinking leads to smarts. “Speedy processing does matter, but it's only half the story. It's how you filter out things that are less relevant and focus your speedy resources on what is important,” Tadin said. Big variation The study reveals new insights into brain efficiency and smarts, said Kevin McGrew, director of the Institute for Applied Psychometrics and owner of www.themindhub.com. Even though the link between IQ and visual filtering was very strong, IQ tests won't be replaced by motion tracking anytime soon, said McGrew, who was not involved in the study. “Their task accounts for or explains about 50 percent of the IQ scores,” McGrew told LiveScience. “That is impressive in psychology, but it still means there is 50 percent of the scores that they're not explaining.” Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.source : http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/05/24/simple-vision-test-predicts-iq/