New research finds that mothers often worry, but babies of anxious mothers may also spend more time focusing on threats in their environment.
Using a novel experimental design, Pennsylvania State University scientists used eye-tracking technology to measure how long babies spent looking at happy, neutral, and angry faces. They found that the babies with anxious moms had a harder time looking away from an angry face — which they could view as a threat — than babies whose moms were not anxious.
Researchers believe the study findings, published in in the journal Emotion, could help give clues about which children are at risk for developing anxiety later in life.
“Once we learn more about the pathways to anxiety, we can better predict who’s at risk and hopefully help prevent them from needing treatment later on,” said Dr. Koraly Pérez-Edgar, a professor of psychology.
“Treatment is difficult for the child and parent, it’s expensive and it doesn’t always work. If we can prevent anxiety from developing, that’s a whole lot better. Let’s find out which kids are at the highest risk and intervene.”
Previous research has found that focusing too much on threat could potentially increase anxiety, and some forms of therapy focus on turning attention away from threat as a way to lower anxiety.
“Paying too much attention to threat, even as infants, could possibly set up this cycle. The more you fixate on threat, the more opportunity you have to see the world as a threatening place, which could help lead to more anxiety,” Pérez-Edgar said.
“Additionally, we think that risk factors in biology and potentially mom’s anxiety could also make that more likely.”
To examine the relationship between a mother’s anxiety and her baby’s attention to threat, researchers recruited 98 babies between the ages of four and 24 months.
The research team was led by Pérez-Edgar, and included Drs. Kristin Buss, professor of psychology at Penn State, and Vanessa Lobue, assistant professor of psychology at Rutgers University.
The study methodology included investigators asking babies’ mothers questions about their anxiety levels. Also, the babies themselves were placed in front of a screen that was equipped with an eye tracker, a strip that ran along the bottom of the monitor and followed the movement of the babies’ irises using infrared.
As each baby focused on the screen, their gaze was measured while happy, neutral and angry faces appeared one at a time. Once the baby was focused on a face, a second image was flashed in their peripheral vision to distract them.
“By the time you’re a few months old, a reflex develops where you’ll automatically turn and look if something pops up in your peripheral vision,” Pérez-Edgar said. “This became a conflict for the babies, because they were focused on the face but then had this reflex to turn and look.”
The researchers found that the more anxious a baby’s mother was, the more time her baby spent looking at the angry faces before turning to look at the image in their peripheral vision. This suggests that the babies with anxious moms had a harder time disengaging from a potential threat in their environment.
Additionally, the researchers found that the age of the baby did not matter. The babies with anxious moms spent a longer time looking at the angry face whether they were four or 24 months old, suggesting a potential genetic element.
“It doesn’t seem like the babies are learning to pay more attention to threat from their anxious moms. If that were true, the older babies might have more trouble turning away because they’ve been around their moms longer than the younger babies,” Pérez-Edgar said.
“This seems to suggest that there may be a shared genetic or biological component.”
Pérez-Edgar said the results give powerful clues about where to keep looking to learn more about how anxiety develops in children. In a future study, Pérez-Edgar, Buss, and Lobue will take a closer look at how mothers’ anxiety affects babies over time, instead of at one instance.
Source: Penn State
Sleep is difficult to come by for older Americans as a new poll reveals 46 percent of individuals report trouble falling asleep one or more nights a week. Moreover, most Americans appear to believe that poor sleep is a normal aging characteristic.
University of Michigan investigators administered the National Poll on Healthy Aging to a national sample of older people and discovered that more than one-third of survey participants use some sort of medication to help fall asleep at night.
Respondents reported they had not informed their physician that their sleep posed a problem. Half believed — incorrectly — that sleep problems just come naturally with age.
Investigators explain that those who turn to medications may not realize that prescription, over-the-counter, and even “natural” sleep aids carry health risks — especially for older adults — either alone or in combination with other substances.
In fact, national guidelines strongly warn against prescription sleep medicine use by people over age 65.
Despite this, the nationally representative poll of people ages 65 to 80 found that eight percent of older people take prescription sleep medicine regularly or occasionally. Among those who report sleep troubles three or more nights a week, 23 percent use a prescription sleep aid.
Most who use such drugs to help them sleep had been taking them for years. Manufacturers and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration say such drugs are only for short-term use.
Researchers explains that sleep issues are not uncommon and that medication are not the only solution.
“Although sleep problems can happen at any age and for many reasons, they can’t be cured by taking a pill, either prescription, over-the-counter or herbal, no matter what the ads on TV say,” said poll director Preeti Malani, M.D., a University of Michigan physician trained in geriatric medicine.
“Some of these medications can create big concerns for older adults, from falls and memory issues to confusion and constipation,” even if they’re sold without a prescription.
“The first step for anyone having trouble sleeping on a regular basis should be to talk to a doctor about it,” she said.
“Our poll shows that nearly two-thirds of those who did so got helpful advice, but a large percentage of those with sleep problems simply weren’t talking about it.”
She notes that non-medication-based sleep habits are the first choice for improving sleep in older people. In all, 46 percent of those polled had trouble falling asleep one or more nights a week. Fifteen percent of the poll respondents said they had trouble falling asleep three or more nights a week.
Other health conditions can contribute to sleep difficulties. Twenty-three percent of poll respondents who had trouble sleeping said it was because of pain. And 40 percent of those with frequent sleep problems said their overall health was fair or poor. Other reasons for sleep troubles included having to get up to use the bathroom at night, and worry or stress.
Insomnia and other irregular sleep patterns can interfere with daytime functioning, and are associated with memory issues, depression, and an increased risk of falls and accidents. Even so, many said they didn’t see sleep issues as a health problem — in fact, this belief was the most common reason that poll respondents said they didn’t talk to their doctor about sleep.
This also highlights the need for doctors to ask their older patients about their sleep habits and what they’re doing to address any issues they may be having.
“We know that sleep is a critical factor for overall health as we age, and this new research highlights sleep problems as both a significant health issue for older adults and an under acknowledged one both by patients and their providers,” said Alison Bryant, Ph.D., senior vice president of research for AARP.
“We need to help people understand that lack of sleep is not just a natural part of aging.”
In all, 14 percent of the poll respondents said they regularly took a prescription sleep medication, prescription pain medication, an over-the -counter (OTC) sleep aid, or a herbal supplement to help them sleep. Another 23 percent took one of these options occasionally; most of the occasional users said they chose OTC sleep aids.
The most recent sleep criteria established by the American Geriatrics Society, which guides the use of medications among older people, gives a strong warning against use of prescription sleep drugs, which are sold under such names as Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata.
Meanwhile, even though OTC sleep aids can be purchased without a doctor’s guidance or prescription, they still carry health risks for older people, Malani said. Most of them contain diphenhydramine, an antihistamine that can cause side effects such as confusion, urinary retention, and constipation.
Among poll respondents with frequent sleep problems who took something occasionally to help them sleep, OTC sleep remedies were the most common choice. But among those with frequent sleep issues who took something on a regular basis to try to sleep, prescription sleep medications were the most common option, with 17 percent reporting use.
Use of melatonin and other herbal remedies may be perceived as safer, but less is known about their potential side effects and they are not subject to the FDA’s approval process for medications, said Malani. But any issue that prompts someone to buy an OTC or herbal remedy on a regular basis is something they should discuss with their doctor, she added.
Source: University of Michigan
New research discovers that an abrasive management style may actually help an individual feel good about themselves, but only for a short while.
Indeed, the Michigan State University study, discovered bullying and belittling employees starts to take its toll on a supervisor’s mental state after about a week.
“The moral of the story is that although abuse may be helpful and even mentally restorative for supervisors in the short-term, over the long haul it will come back to haunt them,” said Russell Johnson, Michigan State University associate professor of management and an expert on workplace psychology.
The study appears in the Academy of Management Journal.
While numerous studies have documented the negative effects of abusive supervision, some bosses nevertheless still act like jerks, meaning there must be some sort of benefit or reinforcement for them, Johnson said.
Indeed, the researchers found that supervisors who were abusive felt a sense of recovery because their boorish behavior helped replenish their mental energy and resources.
Johnson said it requires mental effort to suppress abusive behavior — which can lead to mental fatigue — but supervisors who act on that impulse “save” the mental energy that would otherwise have been depleted by refraining from abuse.
The findings extended across cultures as Johnson and colleagues conducted multiple field and experiments on abusive bosses in the United States and China. They collected daily survey data over a four-week period and studied workers and supervisors in a variety of industries including manufacturing, service, and education.
The benefits of abusive supervision appeared to be short-lived, lasting a week or less. After that, abusive supervisors started to experience decreased trust, support, and productivity from employees — and these are critical resources for the bosses’ recovery and engagement.
Investigators discovered that although workers may not immediately confront their bosses following abusive behavior, over time they react in negative ways, such as engaging in counterproductive and aggressive behaviors and even quitting.
To prevent abusive behavior, the researchers suggest supervisors take well-timed breaks, reduce their workloads and communicate more with their employees.
Communicating with workers may help supervisors by releasing negative emotions through sharing, receiving social support, and gaining relational energy from their coworkers.
Source: Michigan State University
New research indicates high rates of sleep problems among youth continuing through teenage years and into early adulthood. The study also suggests that although the sleeping issues come from a variety of issues, many can be controlled with early training on maintaining an active lifestyle.
In the study, investigators from James Cook University and the University of Queensland tracked more than 3600 people from the age of 14 until they were 21. Reports of sleep problems were significant as “just over a quarter of the 14-year-olds reported sleep problems, with more than 40 percent of those still having sleep problems at 21,” said lead investigator, Dr. Yaqoot Fatima from JCU’s Mount Isa Centre for Rural and Remote Health.
She said the causes of sleep problems were different at different ages.
“Maternal factors, such as drug abuse, smoking, depression, and anxiety among mothers are the most significant predictors of adolescent sleep problems in their children, at 14-years-old.
“For all people studied, being female, having experienced early puberty, and being a smoker were the most significant predictors of sleep problems at 21 years.”
She said adolescent depression or anxiety were linking factors for sleep problems between the two ages.
“It’s a vicious circle. Depression and anxiety are well-established risk factors for sleep problems and people with sleep problems are often anxious or depressed,” she said.
Dr. Fatima said that as well as the traditional factors, excessive use of electronic media is emerging as another significant risk.
“In children and adolescents, it’s found to be strongly associated with later bedtime and shorter sleep duration, increasing the risk of developing sleep disturbances,” she said.
Dr. Fatima said the study was worrying as it revealed a high incidence of persistent sleep problems and possible concurrent health problems among young people — but it also strongly suggested an answer to the problem.
“Even allowing for Body Mass Index and other lifestyle factors, we found that an active lifestyle can decrease future incidence and progression of sleep problems in young subjects.
So, early exercise intervention with adolescents might provide a good opportunity to prevent their sleep problems persisting into later life.”
Fatima believes future research should investigate the factors that appear to extend a young adults’ sleep problems into adulthood, and how these may be prevented.
Source: James Cook University
I’m looking for an intern to work with me part-time, (1 or 2 days per week), during the month surrounding World Mental Health Day. Must…
In a new study, European scientists found evidence that being in a positive mood on the day of a flu vaccination can increase its protective effect.
Investigators from the University of Nottingham said their study is the first to examine several psychological and behavioral factors that have been shown to affect how well vaccinations work.
The researchers set out to understand which factor, or combination of factors has the greatest impact on the ability of vaccinations to protect against disease. Study results appear in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.
The findings are important as flu vaccinations are estimated to only be effective in 17-53 percent of older adults compared to 70-90 percent of younger people. With the onset of winter and flu season, the research is likely to be of interest to anyone having their autumn immunizations.
The investigative team measured negative mood, positive mood, physical activity, diet, and sleep three times a week over a six week period in a group of 138 older people due to have their flu shot. Then they examined how well the inoculation was working by measuring the amount of influenza antibody in the blood at four weeks and 16 weeks after the vaccination.
The results showed that of all of the factors measured, only positive mood over the six week observational period predicted how well the jab worked, with good mood associated with higher levels of antibody.
In fact, when the researchers looked at influences on the day of vaccination itself, they found an even greater effect on how well it worked, accounting for between eight and 14 percent of the variability in antibody levels.
Professor Kavita Vedhara, from the University’s Division of Primary Care, said, “Vaccinations are an incredibly effective way of reducing the likelihood of catching infectious diseases. But their Achilles heel is that their ability to protect against disease is affected by how well an individual’s immune system works. So, people with less effective immune systems, such as the elderly, may find vaccines don’t work as well for them as they do in the young.
“We have known for many years that a number of psychological and behavioral factors such as stress, physical activity, and diet influence how well the immune system works and these factors have also been shown to influence how well vaccines protect against disease.”
The study was unusual in that, by chance, the vaccination that participants received was identical to the one they had received in the previous year. This has happened only once before since the turn of the century. As a result, the researchers found that participants had very high levels of antibody — and therefore protection — for two out of three of the viruses present in the vaccination, even before they were vaccinated.
This so-called “ceiling effect” meant that this study was unlikely to see further large increases in antibody levels for these two viruses and therefore was unlikely to reveal an effect of psychological and behavioral factors. As a result, the team focused its analyses on the one strain which was the least “immunogenic;” i.e., the strain with low levels of antibody prior to vaccination.
The researchers said focusing on individual viral strains is not uncommon, but recommended that future research would be best conducted in the context of a vaccination with more novel viral strains to further confirm the positive mood effect on vaccination.
New research suggests that when a child has a TV or video games in their bedroom, negative consequences may happen.
Iowa State University investigators discovered bedroom access to TV or video games resulted in children spending less time reading, sleeping, or participating in other activities. In turn, these children did not do as well in school and were at greater risk for obesity and video game addiction.
Douglas Gentile, lead author and professor of psychology, says the research shows the location of video access really does matter for kids.
Researchers were able to track the detrimental effects over a period of six months to two years. They also found that children with bedroom media watched programs and played video games that were more violent, which increased levels of physical aggression.
Gentile says it stands to reason that most parents are not fully aware of what is happening behind closed doors.
The study appears in the journal Developmental Psychology.
“When most children turn on the TV alone in their bedroom, they’re probably not watching educational shows or playing educational games,” Gentile said. “Putting a TV in the bedroom gives children 24-hour access and privatizes it in a sense, so as a parent you monitor less and control their use of it less.”
The study utilizes data from Gentile’s previous studies on screen time and media content. The new study found that having bedroom media significantly changes the amount of time children spend with media, and changes the content they view. Moreover, bedroom access also changes what children do not do, such as reading.
Investigators believe some of the new findings are a reflection of the digital media environment.
Several studies have tracked changes in children’s screen time. Gentile says that number continues to trend upward, nearing close to 60 hours a week that children spend in front of screens.
National studies show that more than 40 percent of children, ages four to six, have a TV in their bedroom, and a substantial majority of children eight and older have a TV or video game console in their bedrooms.
While this study looked specifically at TVs and video games in the bedroom, Gentile expects the effects to be the same, if not stronger, given the access children now have to digital devices.
He has talked with parents worried about their child’s digital media use or how best to set limits. Their concerns range from children accessing questionable content to responding in the middle of the night to text messages or social media alerts, he said.
It is a challenge Gentile says he too has faced as a parent, but he encourages others to keep media out of their children’s bedroom. It may cause a battle in the short term, but will benefit children in the long term.
“It’s a lot easier for parents to never allow a TV in the bedroom than it is to take it out,” he said. “It’s a question every parent must face, but there is a simple two-letter answer. That two-letter answer is tough, but it is worth it.”
It may be natural for parents to wonder why a TV in the bedroom is any different from any other room in the home.
Gentile says it comes down to ease of access. There is no direct link between the physical presence of a TV and poor grades. Rather, bedroom media makes it easier for children to spend more time watching or playing, which displaces other beneficial and healthful activities.
For example, researchers tracked children over a period of 13 and 24 months and found bedroom media (both TV and video games) increased total screen time, which indirectly affected school grades.
The data pointed to one explanation — third through fifth grade students who spent more time watching TV, spent less time reading. According to the study, increased screen time was also associated with higher body mass index, physical aggression, and symptoms of video game addiction.
“We know from decades of research on addiction that the No. 1 predictor of addiction is access.
“You can’t be addicted to gambling, if there is no place to gamble,” Gentile said. “Access is certainly the gateway to a wide range of effects, both positive and negative.”
Source: Iowa State University
Since 1992, the year that Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida, Annette M. La Greca has been investigating how best to define post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children.
Dr. La Greca, distinguished professor of psychology and pediatrics at the University of Miami (UM) has been trying to gain a better understanding of how disasters impact the mental health of children, to identify which children in particular may need support services post-disaster, and to know which key factors help most with recovery.
In a new study, published in the International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology, La Greca, along with UM graduate student BreAnne Danzi, examine how well the “preschool” definition of PTSD identifies school-aged children with significant distress after a major hurricane.
“The good news is that most children are resilient, even after a very devastating storm,” said La Greca. However, children have different ways of expressing distress than adults.
The findings come as recent hurricanes have led to massive evacuations of children and families and wreaked havoc: Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Hurricane Irma in Florida and the Caribbean and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The study involved 327 children (ages 7-11) from six elementary schools in Galveston, Texas, who were directly in the path of Hurricane Ike, a Category 2 storm that made landfall in September 2008.
The researchers found that the preschool definition of PTSD identifies more distressed children than the typical “adult-based” definition. Thus, the preschool definition may be more helpful when screening elementary school-age children (ages 7-11) for PTSD-risk.
Additional research by La Greca and her team also found that two-thirds of children who are initially distressed after a disaster recover naturally over the course of the school year. They found that children who do recover are more likely to have greater social support from friends and family, fewer life stressors in the disaster’s aftermath and more positive coping skills than those who remain chronically distressed.
“We now know from research that some children who endured a stressful evacuation or experienced scary or life-threatening events during the storm are at risk for a poor recovery over time,” she said.
“Children who need extra support include those who report feeling anxious or depressed, as well as stressed, and who lack social support from friends and family. They also have multiple stressors to deal with after the storm. All of those factors contribute to poor recovery and less resilience.”
“There is no doubt that hurricanes and other extreme weather events can be stressful for children and for adults,” said La Greca. “But as with many stressful experiences, a little extra support can go a long way.”
Source: University of Miami
Hi there. My name is Laura, I am 27 and currently studying a Postgraduate Diploma in Mental Health Nursing. I have a first class honours…