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Mood May Influence How Well Flu Vaccine Works

Mood May Influence How Well Flu Vaccine Works

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.

Source: University of Notingham/EurekAlert

TV/Video Games in Bedroom Can Lead to Child Issues

TV/Video Games in Bedroom Can Lead to Child Issues

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

What Does PTSD Look Like in Preschoolers After the Hurricane?

What Does PTSD Look Like in Preschoolers After the Hurricane?

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


Against The Odds – A Superwoman Emerges

Against The Odds - A Superwoman Emerges

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…

The post Against The Odds – A Superwoman Emerges appeared first on wE'Re AlL mAd HeRe.

UK Study: Nearly 1 in 4 Girls Depressed at Age 14

UK Study: Nearly 1 in 4 Girls Depressed at Age 14

A large study on more than 10,000 children born in 2000-01 reveals a significant rate of depression among teen girls and boys.

Researchers from the University of Liverpool and University College London analyzed responses from the Millennium Cohort Study and discovered a quarter of girls (24 percent) and one in 10 boys (nine percent) are depressed at age 14.

In the study, parents are asked to report on their children’s mental health at ages three, five, seven, 11 and 14. Then, when they reached 14, the children were themselves asked questions about their depressive symptoms. The research, published with the National Children’s Bureau, also investigated links between depressive symptoms and family income.

Generally, 14-year-olds from better-off families were less likely to have high levels of depressive symptoms compared to their peers from poorer homes.

Parents’ reports of emotional problems were roughly the same for boys and girls throughout childhood, increasing from seven percent of children at age seven to 12 percent at age 11.

However, by the time they reached early adolescence at age 14, emotional problems became more prevalent in girls, with 18 percent having symptoms of depression and anxiety, compared to 12 percent of boys.

Behavior problems, such as acting out, fighting and being rebellious decreased from infancy to age five, but then increased to age 14. Boys were more likely than girls to have behavior problems throughout childhood and early adolescence.

The discovery of a wide variation between parents’ perceptions of their children’s mental health and the 14-year-olds’ own reports of their emotional problems highlights the importance of considering young people’s views on their own mental health.

“In recent years, there has been a growing policy focus on children’s mental health. However, there has been a lack of nationally representative estimates of mental health problems for this generation,” said lead author Dr. Praveetha Patalay, from the University of Liverpool.

“In other research, we’ve highlighted the increasing mental health difficulties faced by girls today compared to previous generations and this study further highlights the worryingly high rates of depression.”

Professor Emla Fitzsimons, director of the Millennium Cohort Study, said, “These stark findings provide evidence that mental health problems among girls rise sharply as they enter adolescence. And while further research using this rich data is needed to understand the causes and consequences of this, this study highlights the extent of mental health problems among young adolescents in the U.K. today.”

Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive of the National Children’s Bureau, said, “This study of thousands of children gives us the most compelling evidence available about the extent of mental ill-health among children in the UK. With a quarter of 14-year-old girls showing signs of depression, it’s now beyond doubt that this problem is reaching crisis point.

“Worryingly, there is evidence that parents may be underestimating their daughters’ mental health needs. Conversely, parents may be picking up on symptoms in their sons, which boys don’t report themselves. It’s vital that both children and their parents can make their voices heard to maximize the chances of early identification and access to specialist support.

“The new research also suggests that signs of depression are generally more common among children from poorer families. We know that mental health doesn’t exist in a vacuum and as the government prepares to publish its plans to improve children’s well-being, it must address the overlap with other aspects of disadvantage.”

Source: University of Liverpool

How To Start A Profitable Blog In Any Niche

Since my How To Start A Mental Health Blog post was so popular and because I’ve been inundated with messages from those of you who want to know more about blogging, I decided it was about time I start an actual blogging series. I’ve been blogging for a few years now, both with this blog and my photography blog and I’ve also helped write blog posts for other companies, so I think it’s probably about time I share some of the things I’ve learned along the way. Hopefully this will help you save you a lot of time and headaches that I had to endure when starting out because I had no idea wtf I was even doing.

To begin the series with purpose, here’s my guide on How To Start A Profitable Blog In Any Niche… ’cause let’s face it, if you’re not blogging about something you love, will you really stick with it?

I personally think if you’re going to make money from something like blogging, the main subject of your blog should be something you’re passionate about. If you’re talking about something you love, it will come across in your writing and it will especially show when you’re promoting something on your blog.

So when you’ve decided on your niche, whether it’s Travel, Lifestyle, Beauty, Fashion, Finance etc. and you’ve decided on your blog name, it’s time to get set up…


How to start a profitable blog in any niche

How to start a profitable blog in any niche

Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. I only endorse products/services that I believe will be a benefit to you and would never recommend something I don’t like or trust. 



First tip here, is to check the blog name you want is actually available. Not just as a domain name but all across social media too. It’s so much easier for you and your future followers if your social media handles are all the same on each platform. When I chose Anxious Lass, I made sure it was available everywhere, so I could have the anxiouslass handle on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Google. I made the mistake of not doing this with my photography business and my social media handles are all different and it’s such a pain in the bum!

Once you know that you’re blog name is available, it’s time to set up your hosting and domain. I fully recommend going for a great hosting company from the get go because let me tell you, it’s NOT fun having to transfer your website over to another hosting company a year or so down the line and if you want to start making money right away then you don’t want to get caught up using a free blogging service. Self hosted is definitely the way to go! It’s also much cheaper for you in the long run because if you’re using a free blogging service and then decide you want your own domain and premium features/themes further down the line, you will end up paying out of your arse like I did a few years ago, only to still have limitations on what you can do.

I strongly recommend using SiteGround. It’s the best hosting platform out there in my opinion and when you’re planning to grow your blog and get serious traffic, you really don’t want to be dealing with lots of downtime like you would get with other hosting companies. It’s also not as expensive as you would think. You can get their StartUp web hosting for just $3.95 per month (or £2.75 for us brits).


How To Start A Profitable Blog In Any Niche


Once you have your domain and hosting set up, I’d highly advise installing WordPress. This is not to be confused with the WordPress.com blogging website. This WordPress works by installing it onto your own self hosted website, letting you add plugins and all sorts of great themes.. it’s the most customisable blogging system ever and I honestly wouldn’t be able to run this blog without it. It’s also completely free! You can read the WordPress installation guide by SiteGround here.


This is what my WordPress looks like when I’m writing a post:

How To Start A Profitable Blog In Any Niche




In my blogs earlier life, the design was pretty rushed and not very well put together. It was white and red and kinda angry looking and I was using a free theme that I couldn’t customise much. When it came to thinking about which direction I wanted to go with my blog, the design and feel of it became a hugely important part of the process. I wanted people to feel safe and invited when they visited my blog, I wanted a space that seemed positive and hopeful. I decided I wanted white, pinks, light blues and gold to be featured colours, they all felt fun and friendly to me.

I also had a vision in my head on what sort of layout I’d like on my blog and I needed it to work better with mobile too.

I came across Pretty Darn Cute Designs and their Fun WordPress Theme was exactly what I wanted for my blog. I had to install the Genesis Framework first and then install the Fun WordPress Theme but I figured it was a fab investment since I would never have the time or patience to create a theme from scratch that I’d be happy with.

There are lots of great WordPress themes out there for blogging, you can easily find some for free on their theme database or if you’d like something extra special and customisable, there are lots of gorgeous themes available on Creative Market such as the Paisley WordPress Theme or the Natalie WordPress theme which I actually use for my photography blog.




This is super important if you want to make money with your blog, now or in the future. Collecting an email list will be extremely valuable, especially if you go on to sell your own ebook, course or want to promote a new blog post and it’s pretty imperative that you allow people to sign up right away.

You might see that I have several ways of allowing people to sign up to my email list, including a pop-up form, a sidebar form, a form at the bottom of blog posts and a form directly at the top of my blog. I use MailerLite for all of this, in fact, I moved over to them only a few months back from my old provider because there was so much more I could do with them.

Automation was the biggest thing for me, as I wanted my email list opt-in (this is an incentive you have for people signing up to your list) to be a free email course. So I needed to be able to have automated, scheduled emails go out to my readers as soon as they sign up. You have to pay straight away for this privilege on most email services but with MailerLite I could do this for free, up until I hit the 1,000 subscribers mark.  Pretty cool!


How I designed a subscriber pop-up using my free email course incentive with MailerLite:

How To Start A Profitable Blog In Any Niche




Super duper important. You need to know how many people are visiting your blog and how they’re finding you to really make an assessment on what is working and what isn’t. This also helps you to find out which content on your blog is the most popular.

I use both Google Analytics and Jetpack for WordPress.

Why do I use both? Google is more in-depth but Jetpack works directly with WordPress so I can see my stats as soon as I login to my blog. I like the best of both worlds really. Plus, Jetpack comes with other good stuff like more commenting options and sharing buttons, so it’s worth having anyway.

Here’s an example of my Google Analytics over a 30 day period:

How To Start A Profitable Blog In Any Niche




Now that you can monitor your traffic, it’s time to actually start getting some! Here’s where most of my traffic comes from:

Pinterest: 96.50% of my traffic came from Pinterest this month and it’s the platform I put the least effort into. How do I do that? Tailwind! My monthly traffic went from 2,000 to over 10,000 in 3 months thanks to Tailwind. All I have to do, is schedule my pins with their browser plugin and they automatically post my pins during all the best times of the day. I try to schedule at least 50 pins per day and I could never do this manually on a daily basis!

You can get a free account and that will allow you up to 100 pins which you can spread out but I definitely recommend upgrading to their plus account – but be sure to pay for the year rather than monthly as you get unlimited pins this way!

Another thing you will need to do with Pinterest to gain super traffic is to join group boards, you can find a definitive list of group boards to join on PinGroupie. Personally, I would spend a good couple of hours emailing the owners of lots of group boards because the potential of your pins being shared lots is so much greater when you’re in groups.


Google: Blogging is great for Google as you’re constantly keeping your website fresh and churning out new content but I would highly suggest installing the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress. The free version of their plugin is great and it’s what I use to make sure each of my blog posts is optimised perfectly for search engines. Another reason to have WordPress installed on your blog… you can get awesome free plugins for blogging perfection!


Facebook: This is another of my top referrers and not just from my Facebook page but from blogging groups, as well as groups that relate to my niche. A lot of blogging groups offer link shares and commenting threads where you can engage with each others blogs and follow each other. This is great for getting new eyes on your content.


Bookmarking Websites: Such as Reddit and StumbleUpon. These two have generated lots of traffic for some of my blog posts in the past but success can be quite random on these websites. You also have to share things other than just pure self promoting as that can lead to your account being banned or not being seen but it’s worth it for those times where your post may go suddenly viral.


Twitter: This is another one I use often because it’s helped me grow an actual community for my blog, making my engagement much better and more meaningful. You may not get loads of hits from Twitter but you’ll make friends in your niche and that’s always good to have. Taking part in twitter chats really helps.



Okay so now we’re getting to the juicy bit, the bit you’ve been waiting for! How do you create a profitable blog, in any niche? Well, you have several options…

  • Affiliate marketing
  • Ads
  • Sponsorships
  • Products
  • Services


Affiliate Marketing

The short explanation of affiliate marketing is: you like a product, you recommend said product on your blog, you make a commission on that product. Awesome! But how?

There are several affiliate schemes you can join, and some products have their own specific affiliate program. If I really like a product or service and want to recommend it, I search “product name affiliate program” to see if they have a program I can join.

My favourite affiliate scheme by far though is ShareASale, it’s free to sign up and once you’ve signed up you can apply to be an affiliate for LOADS of companies. So it’s the perfect scheme to join no matter what subject your blog is about. They also provide banners as well as text links for you to share and you can create custom links.

Just check the terms for each company you apply to be an affiliate for, as each company will have a different commission available.

Another great affiliate scheme is Amazon Associates. I mean, Amazon has everything, so you can find plenty of products to recommend for every kind of blog. The great thing about being an affiliate for Amazon is that people already trust Amazon, it’s a well established company and your readers will have probably purchased from there before, so they’re more than likely willing to purchase from there again.

Some other affiliate programs that would suit lots of different niches:



Target (yes THAT Target)






There are several different ways you can implement ads into your blog and get paid for them. One way is to sell ad space or display ads in your sidebar for example, straight to sponsors, but this may take a while as you’ll need to gain a decent following first. Another way is to use programs like Google Adsense or Media.net, both of which I use on this blog, as you can put these in your blog straight away.

These methods won’t make you big bucks unless you’re swimming in blog traffic but it will increase your earnings with some passive income, as once you’ve placed the ads on your blog, you don’t need to do anything else for them to earn you money.



Companies often sponsor blogs through things like paid guest posts, paid reviews and even mentions on social media channels. Once your blog has gained some traction and you’re getting a good amount of regular visitors every month, it’s not too difficult to find companies who will happily sponsor you or pay you to be an influencer.

You could sign up to ELLEfluence and connect with brands or you could simply pitch to brands you like. Brands may even contact you themselves if they like your blog.

You don’t even have to have a massive following to be sponsored, as some companies prefer smaller bloggers but with better engagement.



Another great way of creating a profitable blog is to sell your own products, using your blog as a platform. Many bloggers go on to selling e-books and e-courses through their blog, making hundreds, if not thousands. If you’re already writing amazing content for free, you may as well put together something you know your readers will like and then sell it as a bonus on your blog. You could even get people to sell it for you by creating an affiliate program.

I use SendOwl to sell my book and for my affiliate program. There’s also a 30 day free trial.



Perhaps you’re blog is about health and you can offer 1-1 nutrition advice, or your blog is about marketing and you can offer online coaching. Using your blog as a platform to sell a service is a great way of building an income, as you’re already driving people to your blog who are interested in the service you’re selling.


Well there you have it! Hopefully you’re now on your way to creating a profitable blog in your chosen niche. Please do feel free to comment with any questions you have and if you found this post helpful, feel free to share ?



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Study Confirms Smartphone Apps Can Ease Depression

Study Confirms Smartphone Apps Can Ease Depression

New research has confirmed that smartphone apps can be an effective treatment option for depression.

Depression is the most prevalent mental disorder and a leading cause of global disability, with mental health services worldwide struggling to meet the demand for treatment.

In an effort to tackle this challenge, researchers from Australia’s National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM), Harvard Medical School, the University of Manchester, and the Black Dog Institute in Australia examined the efficacy of smartphone-based treatments for depression.

The researchers reviewed 18 randomized controlled trials that examined 22 different smartphone-delivered mental health interventions.

The studies involved more than 3,400 people between the ages of 18-59 with a range of mental health symptoms and conditions, including major depression, mild to moderate depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and insomnia.

Published in World Psychiatry, the study found that smartphone apps significantly reduced people’s depressive symptoms.

Lead author of the paper, NICM postdoctoral research fellow Dr. Joseph Firth said this was an important finding, which presents a new opportunity for providing accessible and affordable care for patients who might not otherwise have access to treatment.

“The majority of people in developed countries own smartphones, including younger people who are increasingly affected by depression,” he said.

“Combined with the rapid technological advances in this area, these devices may ultimately be capable of providing instantly accessible and highly effective treatments for depression, reducing the societal and economic burden of this condition worldwide.”

Jerome Sarris, NICM deputy director, highlighted the importance of the findings for opening up non-stigmatizing and self-managing avenues of care.

“The data shows us that smartphones can help people monitor, understand, and manage their own mental health,” he said. “Using apps as part of an ‘integrative medicine’ approach for depression has been demonstrated to be particularly useful for improving mood and tackling symptoms in these patients.”

According to the study’s findings, the apps may be best for people with mild to moderate depression.

The researchers found no difference in apps that apply principles of mindfulness compared to cognitive behavioral therapy or mood-monitoring programs.

However, interventions that used entirely self-contained apps — meaning the app did not rely on other aspects, such as clinician and computer feedback — were found to be significantly more effective than non-self-contained apps.

The researchers suggested this might be due to the comprehensiveness of these particular stand-alone apps rather than the combination of therapies.

Despite the promising results, there is no evidence to suggest that using apps alone can outperform standard psychological therapies or reduce the need for antidepressant medications, the researchers advise.

Jennifer Nicholas, a Ph.D. candidate at Black Dog Institute and co-author of the paper, said now that it’s confirmed that apps can be effective for managing depression, future research must investigate which features produce these beneficial effects.

“Given the multitude of apps available — many of them unregulated — it’s critical that we now unlock which specific app attributes reap the greatest benefits, to help ensure that all apps available to people with depression are effective.”

Source: National Institute of Complementary Medicine

Mouse Study: Oxytocin Intensifies Social Experiences, Both Good and Bad

Mouse Study: Oxytocin Intensifies Social Experiences, Both Good and Bad

Commonly known as the “love hormone,” oxytocin plays a major role in social relationships — but more isn’t always better. A new mouse study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry shows that oxytocin amplifies the effects of social experiences — both good and bad. In fact, after negative social experiences, the presence of oxytocin in a particular part of the brain results in avoidance of unfamiliar social situations.

For the study, behavioral neuroscientists Natalia Duque-Wilckens and Brian Trainor worked with female California mice. When stressed, these mice often exhibit a form of social anxiety, shying away from unfamiliar mice instead of approaching them. However, the findings show that a single dose of a drug that blocks the activity of oxytocin restored normal social behavior in stressed females.

The findings are exciting because “for antidepressants like Prozac to have this same effect, it takes a month of daily treatment,” said Trainor, a professor in the University of California (UC), Davis Department of Psychology, College of Letters and Science.

The researchers expected the mice to behave in this manner based on their previous work showing that social stress increases the activity of oxytocin-producing cells in the brain and that females given intranasal oxytocin tend to avoid new social contexts.

Postdoctoral researcher Duque-Wilckens said that these findings support the theory that oxytocin amplifies the effects of social experiences. So rather than promoting only positive social interactions, oxytocin intensifies the experience of both positive and negative social interactions.

In a positive context, such as with family or friends, oxytocin could promote social approach behavior (hence its reputation as the “cuddling” hormone). However, in a negative context, like bullying, oxytocin could promote social avoidance.

But how can the same hormone have such different effects on behavior? The researchers found that two brain regions responded to oxytocin more strongly in females than males. These regions were the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), a brain region known to control anxiety, and the nucleus accumbens, a brain region important for reward and motivation.

The team found that injecting an oxytocin blocker into the BNST, but not the nucleus accumbens, reversed the effects of stress on social behavior in females. Work by other researchers has suggested that oxytocin in the nucleus accumbens promotes rewarding aspects of social interactions.

These findings suggest that oxytocin can generate social anxiety or reward by acting in different areas of the brain. At times when oxytocin is acting in the BNST, drugs that block oxytocin could reduce social anxiety.

Trainor said a consistent theme in oxytocin research is that experience and the surrounding environment have important effects on how oxytocin affects behavior.

“Stressful social experiences appear to change which parts of the brain use oxytocin,” he said. “Understanding how this works in a mouse gives us new ideas on how we could use drugs targeting oxytocin to reduce social anxiety.”

Source: University of California, Davis

Mind Awards 2017

Mind Awards 2017

I’m delighted to announce, that ‘We’re All Mad Here’ has been shortlisted again for a Mind Award. This will be the second time. I was…

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