October 22, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013
According to a new study published by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, sleep quality may influence the onset and progression of Alzheimer's disease. Lead author, Adam Spira, PhD, and his team of researchers discovered a link between shorter and/or poor sleep quality and higher levels of Amyloid beta build-up in the brain.
“Amyloid beta is a peptide of 36–43 amino acids that is processed from the amyloid precursor protein (APP). While best known as a component of amyloid plaques in association with Alzheimer's disease, as Aβ is the main component of certain deposits found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease, evidence has been found that Aβ is a highly multifunctional peptide with significant non-pathological activity.” 
Researchers observed self-reported sleep habits and β-Amyloid deposits of adults from the neuro-imaging sub-study of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging where the average participant age was 76 years. Subjects reported sleep that ranged from more than 7 hours to no more than 5 hours. Using the Pittsburgh compound B tracer and PET scans of the brain to determine the amount of β-Amyloid in the brain, researchers noted that shorter sleep duration and lower sleep quality were both associated with greater amounts of β-Amyloid deposits.

Even though no causal link has been established, if sleep habits do in fact have such an impact, researchers suggest that these findings could potentially slow the progression of Alzheimer’s simply by promoting and maintaining healthy sleep patterns. Furthermore, as this is not the first study to link sleep and Alzheimer’s disease, more research with objective sleep measures could determine whether poor sleep actually contributes to or accelerates Alzheimer's disease.

“Results could have significant public health implications as Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, and approximately half of older adults have insomnia symptoms."

Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behaviour. It is most common in people over 65 years of age; however up to 5% of people develop early-onset in their 40s or 50s. The most common early symptom of Alzheimer's is difficulty remembering newly learned information as changes in the part of the brain associated with learning is often the first to be affected. Eventually these individuals will experience symptoms, including disorientation, mood and behaviour changes; more serious confusion about events, time and place; unfounded suspicions about family, friends and professional caregivers; more severe memory loss and behaviour changes; followed by difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.

Shorter Sleep Duration, Poorer Sleep Quality Linked to Alzheimer ’s Disease
Beta amyloid

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May 10, 2013

Friday, May 10, 2013
A recent study shows a rise among children with disabilities over the past 10 years. The same study also revealed that disabilities relating to physical health conditions have decreased, while disabilities relating to neurodevelopment and mental health have increased dramatically. In addition, the most significant increase has occurred among children from higher-income families.

Lead author Amy J. Houtrow, MD, PhD, MPH, chief, Division of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation and pediatrics at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine admits that previous studies have already demonstrated that the prevalence of childhood disability is on the rise. "Nearly 6 million kids had a disability in 2009-2010 -- almost 1 million more than in 2001-2002" says Houtrow.

Results were derived from the analysis of data gathered from 102,468 parents of children ages 0-17 years of age that participated in the National Health Interview Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2001-2002 and survey data from 2009-2010.

The surveys questioned parents on whether their child…

    • had any limitations in play or activity
    • received special education services
    • needed help with personal care
    • had difficulty walking without equipment
    • had difficulty with memory
    • had any other limitation
If parents responded yes to any of the preceding questions, the surveys questioned whether their child's limitations were due to…

    • a vision or hearing problem
    • an asthma or breathing problem
    • a joint, bone or muscle problem
    • an intellectual deficit or mental retardation
    • an emotional or behavioral problem
    • epilepsy
    • a learning disability
    • a speech problem
    • attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
    • a birth defect
    • an injury
    • some other developmental problem
Meanwhile, researchers classified conditions into three groups:

    1. Physical
    2. neurodevelopmental/mental health
    3. other
Their research uncovered that “the prevalence of disability increased by 16.3% from 2001-2002 to 2009-2010”. In particular, the neurodevelopmental and mental health-related disabilities increased while those disabilities resulting from physical conditions had decreased over the decade. Remarkably, the increase was most significant among children less than 6 years of age, as their rate of neurodevelopmental disabilities nearly doubled over the decade.

Furthermore, results demonstrated higher rates of disabilities among children living in poverty over the entire period of study without any real increase; however the highest rate of growth was identified among children living in higher income households (i.e. household incomes at or above 300% of the federal poverty level or $66,000 a year for a family of four).

Unfortunately, Dr. Houtrow states: "the survey did not break out autism, but we suspect that some of the increase in neurodevelopmental disabilities is due to the rising incidence or recognition of autism spectrum disorders".

Evidently this study has put a broader perspective on an area in desperate need of research. The study leaves the several unanswered questions. Why are rates of disabilities rising among children? What could these demographics really mean? Could it be that children living in poverty are simply being undiagnosed? Could it be that affluent families are more persistent in obtaining a diagnosis? Could there be other reasons or factors yet to be revealed?

Childhood Disability Rate Jumps 16 Percent Over Past Decade

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May 5, 2013

Sunday, May 05, 2013
Research shows that about 5 out of every 30 high school students report being victims of cyberbullying within the past year. In addition, roughly 10 of those 30 students spend about three or more hours per day playing video games or using a computer for other purposes than school work.

These numbers arise from the analysis of data gathered from the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where 81% of schools and 87% of students from the 15,425 public and private high schools responded. The survey represents a national sample of high school students and takes place every two years “to monitor six types of health-risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death, disability and social problems among U.S. youths”.

"Electronic bullying of high school students threatens the self-esteem, emotional well-being and social standing of youth at a very vulnerable stage of their development," said study author Andrew Adesman, MD, FAAP, chief of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York. "Although teenagers generally embrace being connected to the Web and each other 24/7, we must recognize that these new technologies carry with them the potential to traumatize youth in new and different ways."

In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed students about whether they had been bullied in the past 12 months either through email, chat rooms, instant messaging, websites and/or texting. In addition, students were questioned on the number of hours they spent playing video games or using a computer for any other purpose than school work.

Results showed that 1 in 6 high school students or 16.2% reported being a victim of electronic bullying within the past 12 months. More specifically, results revealed that 22.1% of girls reported being bullied electronically while only 10.8% of boys reported being victims of electronic bullying, making girls more than twice as likely to report being victims of cyberbullying. In addition, “whites reported being the victim of cyberbullying more than twice as frequently as blacks”.

Furthermore, thirty-one percent of high school students reported playing video games or using a computer for something other than school work for 3 or more hours each day. Interestingly, boys (35.3%) were more likely than girls (26.6%) to report playing video games for more than three hours per day.

"Electronic bullying is a very real yet silent danger that may be traumatizing children and teens without parental knowledge and has the potential to lead to devastating consequences," said principal investigator Karen Ginsburg, also at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York. "By identifying groups at higher risk for electronic bullying, it is hoped that targeted awareness and prevention strategies can be put in place."

Unfortunately, cyberbullying will only become more and more common in society, especially teens, as technology continues to advance. More research should help to spread awareness and develop legislation that may succeed in decreasing the number of victims of cyberbullying, thereby reducing the rising number of extreme cases that often result in fatalities.

Cyberbullying Rampant Among High School Students: Nearly One-Third of Youths Also Report Playing Video/Computer Games for More Than 3 Hours a Day

© www.mentalhealthblog.com

March 22, 2013

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Cornell University communication expert claims that Facebook can be used to reinforce our self-worth. Particularly, users that receive negative feedback in every day life, tend to be instinctively drawn toward their own profiles to enhance their self-esteem and reinforce their sense of self.  

According to co-author Jeff Hancock, "the extraordinary amount of time people spend on Facebook may be a reflection of its ability to satisfy ego needs that are fundamental to the human condition."  As opposed to the typical view that Facebook is merely an activity that wastes time and often leads to negative consequences.  

To test the hypothesis, 88 undergraduate students were asked to deliver a short speech.  Students were then offered to look over their own Facebook profiles or someone else’s for a few minutes while awaiting feedback on their speech.  Participants then received negative feedback regardless of their performance.  When asked to rate the accuracy of the feedback, those who had viewed their own profiles were less defensive than those who had viewed another person’s profile.

Participants were then given the option to browse Facebook or other online sites after receiving either negative or positive feedback about their speech. Results showed that those who received negative feedback were more likely to choose Facebook than those who received positive feedback.  

These results suggest that an ego boost from viewing their own profiles could lighten the blow from receiving negative feedback about one’s abilities.  Whereas viewing another profile may increase the need to feel self-assured.  Similarly, the need for reassurance of self-worth after receiving negative feedback may influence one’s need to browse Facebook. 

In essence, setbacks experienced in every day life may have less impact on self-esteem and self-worth if Facebook can be used to repair the damage caused by such threats to the ego.  "Perhaps online daters who are anxious about being single or recently divorced may find comfort in the process of composing or reviewing their online profiles, as it allows them to reflect on their core values and identity," Hancock says. 

Also, not only could Facebook supply the emotional benefits needed to repair deep-seated notions of self-worth, but “the research suggests that Facebook profiles could be used strategically in applied self-affirmation interventions”.  For example, campaigns aimed at reducing resistance to anti-smoking messages may be more effective in conjunction with Facebook as young adults may be more compelled to maintain their self-integrity.  

Unfortunately, this study suggests that a person’s Facebook profile offers assurance that they are valuable, worthy and good without touching upon the impacts on those who may receive constant threats to self-worth on Facebook, such as bullied teens.

© www.mentalhealthblog.com

January 19, 2013

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Research shows that the use of choline supplements during pregnancy may prevent schizophrenia.  Specifically, lower rates of physiological schizophrenic risk factors in infants 33 days old has been noted when the dietary supplement is given during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy and early infancy.

Robert Freedman, MD, professor and chairman of the Department of Psychiatry, University of Colorado School of Medicine and one of the study's authors states: "Basic research indicates that choline supplementation during pregnancy facilitates cognitive functioning in offspring. Our finding that it ameliorates some of the pathophysiology associated with risk for schizophrenia now requires longer-term follow-up to assess whether it decreases risk for the later development of illness as well."

Choline is a water-soluble essential nutrient, typically grouped within the B-complex vitamins. It can be found naturally in foods such as liver, muscle meats, fish, nuts and eggs.  According to the American Institute of Medicine, pregnant women require between 450 and 3500 milligrams of choline each day and 550 to 3500 milligrams while lactating.  Infants aged 0-6 months need a minimum daily dose of 125 milligrams of choline and 150 milligrams from 7-12 months of age.

“Choline is also being studied for potential benefits in liver disease, including chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis, depression, memory loss, Alzheimer's disease and dementia, and certain types of seizures.”

To test their theory, researchers observed infant responses to a clicking sound.  Typically, the brain responds fully to an initial click, however the response to a second click immediately following the first is inhibited.  This trait is often absent among schizophrenia patients and relates to poor sensory filtering and familial transmission of schizophrenia risk.  Researchers observed this effect among infants to represent the illness as schizophrenia does not normally appear until adolescence.

“Half the healthy pregnant women in this study took 3,600 milligrams of phosphatidylcholine each morning and 2,700 milligrams each evening; the other half took placebo. After delivery, their infants received 100 milligrams of phosphatidylcholine per day or placebo. Eighty-six percent of infants exposed to pre- and postnatal choline supplementation, compared to 43% of unexposed infants, inhibited the response to repeated sounds, as measured with EEG sensors placed on the baby's head during sleep.”

These results could not only assist in early detection of schizophrenia, but may even help in preventing the illness or developing more effective treatments.

Some examples of choline found in different food sources:

Type of Food
mg of choline
5 ounces (142 g) raw beef liver
Large hardboiled egg
Half a pound (227 g) cod fish
Half a pound of chicken
Quart of milk, 1% fat
A gram soy lecithin
100 grams of Soybeans dry
A pound (454 grams) of cauliflower
A pound of spinach
A cup of wheat germ
Two cups (0.47 liters) firm tofu
Two cups of cooked kidney beans
A cup of uncooked quinoa
A cup of uncooked amaranth
A grapefruit
Three cups (710 cc) cooked brown rice
A cup (146 g) of peanuts
A cup (143 g) of almonds

Choline Supplementation DuringPregnancy Presents a New Approach to Schizophrenia Prevention

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