In The News
Online dating sites, social media and specific apps have significantly changed the way singles meet, date, develop relationships, and even marry.
A new study looks at this practice and compares online and offline meeting venues and if the setting of the initial meeting influences long-term bonds.
Researchers looked at the development of marital and non-marital relationships, and whether breakup rates for both marital and non-marital relationships differ depending on whether a couple first met online or offline.
Research findings are reports in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers.
In the article, researchers found couples who met online have higher breakup rates compared to couples who met offline (both in marital or non-marital romantic relationships).
Additional factors besides the meeting venue can help predict whether a couple will stay together or break up, researchers said. And the factors may differ for marital versus non-marital relationships and include the quality and duration of the relationship.
“The time-tested qualities of trust and intimacy still remain important factors on determining whether a couple stays together, regardless of whether they meet offline or online,” says Brenda K. Wiederhold, Ph.D.
Source: Mary Ann Liebert
People who notice their memory may be slipping could have a greater chance of developing dementia later in life.
The new research, led by University of Kentucky experts, appears to confirm that self-reported memory complaints are strong predictors of clinical memory impairment later in life.
“What’s notable about our study is the time it took for this transition to dementia or clinical impairment to occur — about 12 years for dementia and nine years for clinical impairment — after the memory complaints began,” said study author Richard J. Kryscio, Ph.D.
“These findings suggest that there may be a window for intervention before a diagnosable problem shows up.”
The study is published online in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
For the study, 531 people with an average age of 73 and free of dementia were asked yearly if they noticed any changes in their memory.
They were also given annual memory and thinking tests for an average of 10 years. After death, 243 of the participants’ brains were examined for evidence of Alzheimer’s disease.
A total of 56 percent of the participants reported changes in their memory, at an average age of 82.
The study found that people who reported memory complaints were nearly three times more likely to develop memory and thinking problems.
About one in six participants developed dementia during the study, and 80 percent of those first reported memory changes.
“Our study adds strong evidence to the idea that memory complaints are common among older adults and are sometimes indicators of future memory and thinking problems. Doctors should not minimize these complaints and should take them seriously,” said Kryscio.
“However, memory complaints are not a cause for immediate alarm since impairment could be many years away. And, unfortunately, we do not yet have preventive therapies for Alzheimer’s disease and other illnesses that cause memory problems.”
A study reviewing the decision to have a healthy breast removed to reduce risk of future cancer has found that most women have no regrets.
And the choice to have or not to have reconstructive surgery seems to be an individual preference, including issues of femininity and self-esteem.
Mayo Clinic researchers surveyed hundreds of women with breast cancer who had double mastectomies between 1960 and 1993 and found that 80 percent said they would make the same choice again.
The finding was welcomed as more women with cancer in one breast are opting to have both breasts removed to reduce their risk of future cancer.
The findings are published in the journal Annals of Surgical Oncology.
Researchers were surprised by many of the survey findings:
- While most women were satisfied with their decision whether they followed it with breast reconstruction or not, patients who decided against reconstructive surgery were likelier to say they would choose to have both breasts removed again;
- In the reconstructive surgery group, women who needed additional operations due to complications, breast implant-related issues, or other reasons were likelier to regret their prophylactic mastectomy, though overall, most women with breast reconstructions were satisfied with their choices.
“I think what this study does is adds some literature to the hands of the people counseling patients to say, ‘Whatever decision you make, you’re very likely to be happy with that in the long run, so listen to yourself, and make the decision that’s best for you,’” said lead author Judy Boughey, M.D., a Mayo breast surgeon.
Most of those who skipped reconstruction said they felt the same about themselves and their femininity in the long run as they did before their mastectomies and would make the same choices today.
Many of those with reconstructive surgery also felt the same about themselves as they did before their mastectomies, but some reported more satisfaction with their appearance, higher self-esteem and feeling more feminine.
Mayo physicians are studying the personal consequences of contralateral prophylactic mastectomies to help future patients.
Women with breast cancer have many decisions to make about their treatment, including the degree of surgery to have. Options include lumpectomy, followed by radiation; having one or both breasts removed; and if the choice is mastectomy, whether to have breast reconstruction.
While double mastectomy substantially reduces the risk of cancer developing in the other breast, past studies have found that many women who pursued it didn’t actually have a high risk of cancer in their other breast.
There is mixed data on whether breast cancer patients with a double mastectomy live longer than those who do not choose that option, though most studies show they do not.
Physician advice and a desire for peace of mind tend to play key roles in mastectomy patients’ decision, the Mayo researchers noted.
“When we’re counseling women considering having the other breast removed, it’s a very complex and multilayered discussion,” Boughey said.
“Obviously the risk of developing a new cancer in that breast has to be part of that discussion, but the literature shows that the risk for the other breast is really not that high, and that from a medical standpoint we don’t need to recommend that approach.”
“But it’s also important to note that much of what drives removal of the other breast is patient anxiety, which feeds into patient quality of life, and it also important to consider breast symmetry from a cosmetic standpoint,” she said.
In the new study, Mayo researchers surveyed 621 women who had cancer in one breast and had family histories of breast cancer and chose double mastectomies.
At two time points — roughly 10 years and 20 years after their mastectomies — they were asked about their quality of life and their satisfaction with their decision. The first questionnaire was returned by 583 women. The results:
- A decade later, 83 percent were satisfied with their decision to have double mastectomies, and 84 percent said they would make the same choice again. Roughly two-thirds had breast reconstruction, and one-third did not;
- Seventy-three percent said they would make the same decision about whether to have breast reconstruction surgery or not;
- Those who chose plastic surgery to reconstruct their breasts tended to be married and younger. Their mean age was 47, compared to 53 for those who did not have the plastic surgery;
- Eighty-five percent of those who chose breast reconstruction were married, compared to 78 percent who did not have reconstructive surgery;
- Thirty-nine percent of those who had reconstruction needed an unplanned reoperation, and those with reoperations were likelier to regret the decision to have a double mastectomy. The follow-up surgeries were needed for a variety of reasons, including post-mastectomy complications and implant-related issues;
- Ninety-two percent of the women who responded to the second questionnaire, given to them roughly 20 years after their mastectomies, said they were still satisfied with their choice.
Source: Mayo Clinic
A new University of Iowa (UI) study suggests that Alzheimer’s caregivers have a profound influence — good or bad — on the emotional state of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.
Patients may not remember a recent visit by a loved one or having been neglected by staff at a nursing home, but those actions can have a lasting impact on how they feel.
The findings of this study are published in journal Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology.
In the study, researchers showed individuals with Alzheimer’s disease clips of sad and happy movies. Afterwards, the patients experienced sustained states of sadness and happiness despite not being able to remember the movies.
“This confirms that the emotional life of an Alzheimer’s patient is alive and well,” said lead author Edmarie Guzmán-Vélez, a doctoral student in clinical psychology.
Guzmán-Vélez conducted the study with Dr. Daniel Tranel, UI professor of neurology and psychology, and Dr. Justin Feinstein, assistant professor at the University of Tulsa and the Laureate Institute for Brain Research.
Tranel and Feinstein published a paper in 2010 that predicted the importance of attending to the emotional needs of people with Alzheimer’s, which is expected to affect as many as 16 million people in the United States by 2050 and cost an estimated $1.2 trillion.
“It’s extremely important to see data that support our previous prediction,” Tranel says. “Edmarie’s research has immediate implications for how we treat patients and how we teach caregivers.”
Despite the considerable amount of research aimed at finding new treatments for Alzheimer’s, no drug has succeeded at either preventing or substantially influencing the disease’s progression.
Against this foreboding backdrop, the results of this study highlight the need to develop new caregiving techniques aimed at improving the well-being and minimizing the suffering for the millions of individuals afflicted with Alzheimer’s.
For this behavioral study, Guzmán-Vélez and her colleagues invited 17 patients with Alzheimer’s disease and 17 healthy comparison participants to view the movies. These movie clips triggered the expected emotion: sorrow and tears during the sad films and laughter during the happy ones.
About five minutes after watching the movies, the researchers gave participants a memory test to see if they could recall what they had just seen.
As expected, the patients with Alzheimer’s disease retained significantly less information about both the sad and happy films than the healthy people.
In fact, four patients were unable to recall any factual information about the films, and one patient didn’t even remember watching any movies.
Before and after seeing the films, participants answered questions to gauge their feelings. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease reported elevated levels of either sadness or happiness for up to 30 minutes after viewing the films despite having little or no recollection of the movies.
Quite strikingly, the less the patients remembered about the films, the longer their sadness lasted. While sadness tended to last a little longer than happiness, both emotions far outlasted the memory of the films.
The fact that forgotten events can continue to exert a profound influence on a patient’s emotional life highlights the need for caregivers to avoid causing negative feelings and to try to induce positive feelings.
“Our findings should empower caregivers by showing them that their actions toward patients really do matter,” Guzmán-Vélez says.
“Frequent visits and social interactions, exercise, music, dance, jokes, and serving patients their favorite foods are all simple things that can have a lasting emotional impact on a patient’s quality of life and subjective well-being.”
Source: University of Iowa
New research suggests perfectionism may be a bigger risk factor in suicide than experts had previously imagined.
Researchers from York University in Canada believe clinical guidelines should include perfectionism as a separate factor for suicide risk assessment and intervention.
“There is an urgent need for looking at perfectionism with a person-centered approach as an individual and societal risk factor, when formulating clinical guidelines for suicide risk assessment and intervention, as well as public health approaches to suicide prevention,” said psychologist and researcher Dr. Gordon Flett.
More than one million people worldwide, including over 40,000 North Americans, commit suicide annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2012 estimation.
In a research article, Flett and his co-authors note that physicians, lawyers, and architects, whose occupations emphasize precision, as well as those in leadership roles, are at higher risk for perfectionism-related suicide.
Study authors also cited several recent cases of prominent perfectionists who died by suicide.
Their article is published in the American Psychological Association journal, Review of General Psychology.
In the article, investigators highlight several concerns, including how suicidal thoughts can be linked to external pressures to be perfect.
The authors document how being exposed to relentless demands to be perfect, a concept they refer to as socially prescribed perfectionism, is linked consistently with hopelessness and suicide.
Other key themes discussed are how perfectionistic self-presentation and self-concealment can lead to suicides that occur without warning, and how perfectionists often come up with thorough and precise suicide plans.
“We summarize data showing consistent links between perfectionism and hopelessness and discuss the need for an individualized approach that recognizes the heightened risk for perfectionists,” Flett said.
“They also tend to experience hopelessness, psychological pain, life stress, overgeneralization, and a form of emotional perfectionism that restricts the willingness to disclose suicidal urges and intentions.”
The researchers believe it is essential to proactively design preventive programs tailored to key personality features.
The model should include specific components to enhance resilience and reduce levels of risk among perfectionists who hide behind a mask of apparent invulnerability.
New research suggests the spacing of pregnancies may play a factor in the development of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Investigators discovered children who were conceived either less than one year or more than five years after the birth of their prior sibling were more likely to be diagnosed with autism than children conceived following an interval of two to five years.
The research is published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Keely Cheslack-Postava, Ph.D., of Columbia University and a group of researchers analyzed records from the Finnish Prenatal Study of Autism (FIPS-A), a collection of 7371 children born between 1987 and 2005 in Finland.
Their review found that roughly a third of the children had been diagnosed with autism, while the rest were drawn from other births occurring at similar times and locations.
The study used information from several national registries to compare the spacing of pregnancies between the children who had been diagnosed with autism and those who had not.
The study found that the risk of an autism diagnosis among children conceived less than 12 months following a sibling’s birth was one and a half times as high as those conceived following an interval of 24-59 months.
Children conceived following an interval of 60-120 months were almost 30 percent more likely to be diagnosed with autism.
For intervals of more than 120 months, the risk of autism was over 40 percent higher.
Investigators say the analysis adjusted for certain factors that might explain the association, such as parents’ age, prior number of children, and parental history of psychiatric disorders.
The FIPS-A is a case-control study based in a national birth cohort consisting of all children born in Finland from 1987-2005. It makes use of linked national registries and archived serum samples.
“It was intriguing to see that the risk of ASD diagnosis was higher in both closely and distantly spaced pregnancies,” Cheslack-Postava said.
“It is important to realize that we can’t say from this study that spacing of pregnancies per se is a cause of ASD — this is most likely a proxy of other factors that are more directly related to the chance of the child’s developing ASD.
“In other words, the importance of this finding lies in the clues that it can provide in terms of understanding how the prenatal environment is related to outcomes after birth.”
The senior author of the study, Alan Brown, M.D., M.P.H., of Columbia University, said, ”This study provides further evidence that environmental factors occurring during or near the prenatal period play a role in autism, a serious and disabling condition that afflicts millions of individuals and that is increasing in prevalence.
“This work also exemplifies the importance of large samples of pregnancies with data acquired during pregnancy and their linkage to comprehensive, national databases of reproductive factors, and psychiatric diagnoses.”
A new study finds that adolescents with sleep problems and poor sleeping habits have lower academic performance when compared to those who enjoy a good night’s sleep.
Swedish researchers reviewed more than 20,000 adolescents aged between 12 and 19 from Uppsala County, north of Stockholm.
They discovered reports of sleep disturbance and habitual short sleep duration (less than seven hours per day) increased the risk of failure in school.
The results, published in the journal Sleep Medicine, suggest that sleep may play an important role for adolescents’ performance at school.
“Another important finding of our study is that around 30 percent of the adolescents reported regular sleep problems. Similar observations have been made in other adolescent cohorts, indicating that sleep problems among adolescents have reached an epidemic level in our modern societies,” said researcher Christian Benedict, Ph.D.
In addition to poor academic performance, sleep problems can lead to a host of additional issues including weight gain, dermatological conditions, aggressiveness, and inappropriate behavior.
Source: Uppsala University
Research findings suggest a behavior change in adolescence can significantly increase a teen’s adult earning potential.
Swedish researchers found that men who are obese as teenagers earn up to 18 percent less in adulthood than their peers of normal weight.
Economists and researchers Drs. Petter Lundborg of Lund University, Paul Nystedt of Jönköping University, and Dan-olof Rooth of Linneas University compared demographic and behavioral information from Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Research findings are published in the journal Demography.
The researchers analyzed large-scale data of 145,193 Swedish-born brothers who enlisted in the Swedish National Service for mandatory military service between 1984 and 1997.
This included information gathered by military enlistment personnel and certified psychologists about the soldiers’ cognitive skills (such as memory, attention, logic, and reasoning) and their non-cognitive skills (such as motivation, self-confidence, sociability, and persistence) which can affect productivity.
Tax records were then used to gauge the annual earnings of this group of men, who were between 28 and 39 years old in 2003.
The Swedish results were further compared with data from the British National Child Development Study and the U.S. National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1979.
Previous research has shown only that obese young women pay a price when they enter the labor market.
This study is the first to show how this pattern also emerges among men who were already overweight or obese as teenagers, but does not hold true for males who gain excessive weight only later in life.
In fact, obese teenage boys can grow up to earn 18 percent less in adulthood.
“To put this figure into perspective, the estimated return to an additional year of schooling in Sweden is about six percent. The obesity penalty thus corresponds to almost three years of schooling, which is equivalent to a university bachelor’s degree,” the authors said.
A strikingly similar pattern also emerged when the researchers used the specific data sets from the U.K. and the U.S. This confirms that the wage penalty is unique to men who are already overweight or obese early in their lives.
The researchers ascribe the wage penalty partly to obese adolescents’ often possessing lower levels of cognitive and non-cognitive skills. This is consistent with the evidence linking body size during childhood and adolescence with bullying, lower self-esteem, and discrimination by peers and teachers.
The researchers advise that policies and programs target overweight and obesity problems, which are often more common among low-income households.
This could reduce disparities in child and adolescent development and socioeconomic inequalities. It could also cut persistent patterns of low income across generations.
“Our results suggest that the rapid increase in childhood and adolescent obesity could have long-lasting effects on the economic growth and productivity of nations.
“We believe that the rationale for government intervention for these age groups is strong because children and adolescents are arguably less able to take future consequences of their actions into account,” said Nystedt.
“These results reinforce the importance of policy combating early-life obesity in order to reduce health care expenditures as well as poverty and inequalities later in life.”
New findings suggest mental health is correlated to the consumption of fruits and vegetables with a magic number of five portions a day associated with high mental well-being.
Researcher from the University of Warwick discovered 33.5 percent of respondents with high mental wellbeing ate five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day, compared with only 6.8 percent who ate less than one portion.
Their study is published in the journal BMJ Open.
Saverio Stranges, M.D., Ph.D., the research paper’s lead author, said, “The data suggest that higher an individual’s fruit and vegetable intake the lower the chance of their having low mental well-being.”
31.4 percent of those with high mental well-being ate three-four portions and 28.4 percent ate one-two.
Other health-related behaviors were found to be associated with mental well-being, but along with smoking, only fruit and vegetable consumption was consistently associated in both men and women.
Alcohol intake and obesity were not associated with high mental well-being.
Stranges said, “Along with smoking, fruit and vegetable consumption was the health-related behavior most consistently associated with both low and high mental well-being. These novel findings suggest that fruit and vegetable intake may play a potential role as a driver, not just of physical, but also of mental well-being in the general population.”
Investigators say that low mental well-being is strongly linked to mental illness and mental health problems, but high mental well-being is more than the absence of symptoms or illness — it is a state in which people feel good and function well.
Optimism, happiness, self-esteem, resilience, and good relationships with others are all part of this state.
Mental well-being is important not just to protect people from mental illness but because it protects people against common and serious physical diseases.
Sarah Stewart-Brown, Ph.D., a co-author, believes the implications of the research extend to all aspects of society.
“Mental illness is hugely costly to both the individual and society, and mental wellbeing underpins many physical diseases, unhealthy lifestyles, and social inequalities in health. It has become very important that we begin to research the factors that enable people to maintain a sense of well-being.
“Our findings add to the mounting evidence that fruit and vegetable intake could be one such factor and mean that people are likely to be able to enhance their mental wellbeing at the same time as preventing heart disease and cancer”.
Researchers used the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS) to assess mental well-being.
In the tool, the top 15 percent of participants are categorized as having high mental wellbeing, the bottom 15 percent low and the middle 16-84 percent as middle.
The research involved 14,000 participants in England aged 16 or over, with 56 percent of those being female and 44 percent male, as part of the Health Survey for England.
The survey collected detailed information on mental and physical health, health related behaviors, demographics, and socio-economic characteristics.
Source: University of Warwick
A new study discusses the challenge of developing effective strategies to change traditional, but inequitable and harmful community norms that can lead to gender-based violence.
In the review, Georgetown University researchers acknowledge that gender-based violence affects the physical and mental health of girls and boys, men and women worldwide.
Investigators discovered inequitable gender norms are not only related to domestic violence, but also to other behaviors such as multiple sexual partners, smoking, and alcohol abuse which lead to poor health outcomes.
The findings of the Safe Passages study, which note the importance of mobilizing broad community support to meet the challenge, are relevant to addressing sexual violence in urban neighborhoods, suburban settings, rural environs as well as college campuses or refugee camps. In each of these settings, beliefs about what it means to be a man or a woman can result in coerced and forced sex.
“If the community expects boys to dominate and be sexually aggressive and girls to be passive, then there is a general assumption that girls must be coerced into sex,” said Rebecka Lundgren, M.P.H., who led the study.
“Boys who are not aggressive may be ridiculed or looked down upon. Yet, boys and young men rarely have the opportunity to observe and learn from male role models who protect and support the girls and women in their lives.”
Lundregen believe the best way to address this behavior is to encourage parents, other family members, teachers, religious leaders, and peers to talk about and reflect on these norms.
Most importantly, peers and role models are asked to discuss and explain alternative ways of demonstrating masculinity and femininity — practices that can lead to strong, healthy relationships.
“Efforts to transform gender roles to lay the foundation for positive and respectful relationships must begin early and continue throughout life,” Lundgren said.
“Ideally this change begins with parents and grandparents, who consider the messages they are passing on to children when they encourage boys to grow up to be ‘big and strong’ and girls to be ‘nurturing and kind’.”
To accomplish the task, rigid gender norms and roles must be ignored, as the traditional rites of passage are often harmful for males (“real men” must provide for their families and are “less manly” if unable to do so, often resulting in violence) and females (women should maintain family harmony, even if it means accepting occasional violence).
Efforts to prevent violence must tackle the complex challenge of transforming these gender norms, according to Lundgren and study co-author Melissa K. Adams, M.P.H.
Finding and supporting leaders within the community who are committed to change and able to advocate for new models of masculinity and femininity can create an environment that does not tolerate violence, according to Lundgren.
She said community campaigns and programs that communicate with both boys and girls rather than single sex efforts have the greatest likelihood of success.
In their study, Lundgren and Adams sought understanding of the processes by which youth are socialized into gender norms and how these gender norms are associated with violence and other negative health outcomes.
To gain this insight, they conducted research in a post-conflict setting in Northern Uganda with high rates of gender-based violence, sexually transmitted infections, and unintended pregnancies.
They spoke with men, women, and children returning to their communities following two decades of war — the lifespan of an entire generation.
These community members, despite experiencing social and cultural upheaval that legitimized domestic violence, demonstrated a desire to rebuild protective cultural traditions and to challenge inequitable gender norms.
Lundgren stresses that the need to understand gender norms and how they generate gender-based violence is universal and not limited to any one region or country.
“Helping societies to value more equitable gender norms — a critical step towards preventing intimate partner violence — requires that individuals be respected, valued, and appreciated. Interventions that provide positive social support can facilitate beneficial change,” Lundgren said.
New research suggests internal personality issues may be the root cause of dishonesty and malicious behavior — factors that can contribute to a business’ collapse.
In the new study, investigators from the University of Georgia posit that when employees feel left out, they act out; often setting the stage for a business culture that can lead to disastrous consequences.
Thus, basic emotions triggered by the loneliness of social exclusion can fuel reprehensible, out-of-character behaviors.
“Everybody has a need for social approval. It’s the basis of our human functioning,” said Marie Mitchell, Ph.D., co-author of the research.
“But when individuals are faced with a risk of social exclusion, it motivates some pretty unsavory behaviors.
We already know how people react when they’re definitely being excluded from a group, when someone is mistreating them or abusing them. But what we sought to examine this time is: What if you’re not sure?”
Employees can feel disconnected from their work when they think they weren’t invited to lunch or when they feel isolated from group activities like getting coffee.
These actions are often so subtle that it’s hard to tell if they’re purposeful. Regardless, the new study shows that their effect on employees can be harmful.
Study results are found in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
“When a person believes that they are at risk for exclusion, they assume that there is something about their personality or their makeup that suggests they’re not a valued group member, so they have to do something above and beyond what they’re currently doing in order to demonstrate their value to the group,” Mitchell said.
“So they engage in behaviors that are pretty seedy. They undermine anybody outside that workgroup, they cheat to enhance their group’s performance level, they lie to other workgroups.”
Such behaviors can ripple throughout an organization, causing managers to expect unrealistic performance goals and contribute to an overtaxing, suspicious environment.
They can even affect the bottom line.
“These unethical, productivity-cheating type behaviors — people think they’re more productive than they actually are,” Mitchell said.
“They’re lies, essentially. They’re not really reflecting performance levels or the productivity of an organization.
“And what’s worse is they can ultimately undermine productivity and the organization’s effectiveness because if those things come to light within a group context, they will totally undermine the group and its internal dynamics.
“They could potentially be a dark seed within the organization as well. Those kinds of cheating behaviors have taken down companies like Enron and World Com.”
Mitchell and her co-authors tested the idea through an experiment in which participants faced the risk of exclusion.The Study
In a lab setting, participants took a personality test, then were divided into groups of four and asked to talk with each other for 15 minutes. Following the discussion, they were told they would be taking two tests that would be scored against a different group.
While all four members would take the first test, the group would vote on three members to move on to a second.
The research team manipulated perceived risk of exclusion by asking participants to report on which members of the four-member group they felt should participate in the last group task.
Participants were then asked to do a computer task. At that time, they received an update informing them about the feedback on how the team rated whether they would move forward to the last task.
The researchers randomly assigned who received high versus low perceived risk of exclusion information.
Participants in the high risk for exclusion group were told that only one member voted to have them continue to the last task.
Participants in the low risk for exclusion group were told that three members voted to have them continue to the last task. With members now primed to feel potential exclusion, the first test began.
It consisted of unanswerable anagrams, a mishmash of letters that the participants were told could be unscrambled to form common English words.
Participants were asked to record how many anagrams they unscrambled. Since there were no correct answers, every reported instance of solving the anagrams was a lie.
“There was definitive cheating. If they put down even one thing, that was cheating,” Mitchell said. “There’s a generally human tendency when faced with these kind of situations for individuals to misreport what they did.
“But those who had a high-need for social approval and were in the group that were being excluded, they were far more likely to cheat.”
Mitchell said those lies serve two purposes: to help the liar’s group beat their competitors and to prove the liar’s worth within the group.
“So the risk of social exclusion essentially motivates some pretty unsavory behaviors out of individuals at work,” Mitchell said.
“Research from others suggests that these are pretty costly behaviors, and that they’re a lot more prevalent than people think that they are. The cost to organizations ranks into the billions of dollars annually.”
So what can organizations do about this phenomenon?
According to Mitchell, “If you’re a manager and you see someone who is not integrating well with the rest of the employees, take care in handling them and try to get them better integrated with their colleagues.”
“Look at the internal dynamics and norms of what constitutes performance behaviors for your employees. Employees who are at risk of exclusion are far likelier not to engage in these behaviors if they think the entire work group will be held accountable if they behavior isn’t ethical.”
“If there are structures in place that demonstrate a value to ethical behavior, and even include for example, bonuses or other motivators for that behavior, that can help,” she added.
“Accountability systems should demonstrate that they hold individuals to doing things the right way as opposed to the wrong way.”
Source: University of Georgia
New research counters the notion that a single parent of a child younger than five has a limited social life, if a social life at all.
Researchers from the Kinsey Institute discovered single parents of children younger than five date and are sexually active as often as singles without children — and more so than single parents of older children.
The study is published online in the Journal of Sex Research.
“This data is counter to theory and what was previously assumed about patterns of dating and sexual behavior among U.S. singles,” said Justin Garcia, Ph.D., an evolutionary biologist, and research scientist at The Kinsey Institute.
“Our data sample is large enough that it allows for analyses like this to be informative about the intimate lives of single parents.”
Male and female parents of young children experience hormonal changes that can affect their sexuality.
“There has been a modest amount of research on the sexuality of parents, particularly mothers,” said Peter Gray, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology at University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
“That small body of research suggests that, while it takes sex to have a child, a child can have a disruptive effect on parents’ sex life
“This new study was unusual in focusing upon the sexual and dating behavior of single parents rather than partnered parents of young children.”
“We know that on average, singles have relatively less sexual activity than coupled people — singles tend to have lower rates of sexual frequency likely because they have to first find a partner to have sex with,” Garcia said.
“And, for single parents, there is only so much time and so much energy to be used for a variety of competing demands in their life. Without the help of a partner, singles often have to divert more energy to parenting and so in theory one might think single parents would not be dating as much. But that’s not what we found.”
The authors described humans as “cooperative breeders” because of the amount of care children require.
From an evolutionary perspective, the single moms and dads — the study found no gender differences — may be looking for a partner to help with the kids but also to provide adult company.
Researchers followed 5,805 single adults (2,830 single women and 2,975 single men), with 84 percent noting previous romantic relationship experiences.
The sample included heterosexual (86.2 percent), gay/lesbian (10.6 percent), and bisexual (3.2 percent) singles.
Of this sample, a total of 2,121 were single parents; and 342 were single parents with children five or younger.
Source: University of Indiana
A new survey finds that an exercise DVD that adds short breaks of physical activity to the daily routine of elementary school students was very popular with both students and teachers, and offered clear advantages for overly sedentary educational programs.
Called “Brain Breaks,” the DVD was developed and produced by the Healthy Youth Program of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University (OSU).
Brain Breaks leads children in five to seven minute segments of physical activity, demonstrated by OSU students and elementary school children from Corvallis, Oregon. The short periods of exercise aim to improve the physical health, mental awareness, and educational success of children.
“We’re increasingly recognizing the importance of physical activity for children even as the academic demands placed on them are cutting into the traditional programs of recess and physical education,” said researcher Gerd Bobe, Ph.D.
“Research has shown that physical activity can increase academic performance, student focus, and classroom behavior,” Bobe said.
“Kids need to move, they can’t just sit all day long,” Bobe said. “Given the time constraints and multiple demands that schools are facing, we really believe the concept of short activity breaks, right in the classroom, is the way to go.”
Oregon law, for instance, mandates that by 2017 elementary schools will be required to have 30 minutes a day of physical education classes, in addition to recess periods.
But a survey conducted by the Healthy Youth Program found that 92 percent of Oregon public elementary schools currently do not meet this standard.
“And sometimes,” Bobe said, “elimination of recess is used as a disciplinary tool, potentially taking activity away from those students who may need it the most.”
Brain Breaks was created to bring more activity back into classrooms, especially when it may be most useful — in the afternoon after lunch, for instance, when attention spans and concentration tend to waver.
The program offers a variety of segments, including six based on stretching and relaxation, five on endurance, and one on strength, with imaginative concepts such as “space adventures” and “crazy kangaroos.”
No equipment is needed, other than a chair for the strength segment, and all activities can be done in a classroom setting.
A recent survey of the Healthy Youth Program that was sent to participating Oregon school districts found that:
- almost all teachers said the program was appropriate for their classes and well-understood by the class;
- more than 90 percent of teachers said the exercise segments had the right length, and that students were more focused after using the program;
- all of the segments were popular with more than 80 percent of students, but the stretching and relaxation activities had the highest approval, at 95 percent, and were also most frequently used by teachers;
- about three-fourths of the teachers were using the program two to three times per week, and more than 90 percent plan to continue its use.
“Longer periods of exercise have a place, but research shows that these short programs can be very valuable as well,” Bobe said.
“They can increase oxygen consumption, range of motion, endurance, and get kids in the habit of being more active. A little bit of exercise can go a long way.”
A second edition of the DVD is being developed, Bobe said.
“This survey shows a program that’s working and is valuable,” Bobe said. “We hope it becomes popular across the nation.”
Source: Oregon State University
University of Michigan researchers have come up with a simple tonic for stress: Fresh air. Walk. Socialize.
The recommendations reflect the findings of a new large-scale study that found group nature walks were associated with lower depression and perceived stress, and enhanced mental well-being.
Investigators discovered people who had recently experienced stressful life events — such as a serious illness, death of a loved one, marital separation, or unemployment — received a significant mood boost after outdoor group walks.
“We hear people say they feel better after a walk or going outside, but there haven’t been many studies of this large size to support the conclusion that these behaviors actually improve your mental health and well-being,” says senior author Sara Warber, M.D.
“Walking is an inexpensive, low risk, and accessible form of exercise and it turns out that combined with nature and group settings, it may be a very powerful, underutilized stress buster.
“Our findings suggest that something as simple as joining an outdoor walking group may not only improve someone’s daily positive emotions but may also contribute a non-pharmacological approach to serious conditions like depression.”
Researchers evaluated 1,991 participants from the Walking for Health program in England, which helps facilitate nearly 3,000 weekly walks and draws more than 70,000 regular walkers a year.
“Given the increase in mental ill health and physical inactivity in the developed world, we are constantly exploring new, accessible ways to help people improve their long term quality of life and well-being,” Warber says.
“Group walks in local natural environments may make a potentially important contribution to public health and be beneficial in helping people cope with stress and experience improved emotions.”
Source: University of Michigan
Researchers are making progress on a new “on demand” epilepsy pill which can be taken when people feel a seizure starting. The pill has been developed by a team at University College London, UK, led by Professor Dimitri Kullmann.
They explain that about one percent of people worldwide, or 65 million individuals, have epilepsy. About a quarter are resistant to normal treatments, drugs that suppress the excitability of all brain cells and cause side effects.
But the new pill to suppress seizures may help this group, as it works by genetically modifying brain cells, making them sensitive to a compound which is normally inactive. Kullmann described the process. “First, we inject a modified virus into the area of the brain where seizures arise,” he said.
“This virus instructs the brain cells to make a protein that is activated by clozapine-N-oxide, or CNO, a compound that can be taken as a pill. The activated protein then suppresses the overexcitable brain cells that trigger seizures, but only in the presence of CNO.”
He added, “At the moment, severe seizures are treated with drugs that suppress the excitability of all brain cells, and patients therefore experience side effects. Sometimes the dose required to stop seizures is so high that patients need to be sedated and taken to intensive care.
“If we can take our new method into the clinic, which we hope to do within the next decade, we could treat patients who are susceptible to severe seizures with a one-off injection of the modified virus, and then use CNO only when needed.
“CNO would be given as a pill in the event that patients could predict when seizures were likely to occur. For example, many people with treatment-resistant epilepsy experience clusters of seizures, where severe seizures are preceded by smaller ones. Seizure risk is also high when people are ill, sleep deprived, or at certain times of the menstrual cycle, so these would all be good times to take the pill as a preventative measure.
“In urgent situations, the compound could be given as an injection. We could even consider a fully automatic delivery system, where CNO was given by a pump, as is done for insulin in some people with diabetes.”
Full details of the treatment are outlined in the journal Nature Communications. The team has tested the pill on rodents and are planning future trials on human volunteers.
Dr. John Williams, a neuroscientist and head of clinical activities, neuroscience and mental health at the UK-based charity The Wellcome Trust, commented, “Epilepsy is a debilitating condition with limited treatment options. We look forward to seeing how this innovative approach for targeted control of seizure activity might translate into new treatment options for managing and controlling seizures in humans.”
Currently, individuals with epilepsy are often prescribed daily anticonvulsant drugs. Nevertheless, about 30 percent still have seizures, and adverse effects such as mood changes and drowsiness occur in up to 90 percent of those taking the drugs.
On the other hand, CNO is broken down in the body after a few hours, and affects only specific parts of the brain rather than the whole brain, as with seizure-suppressing drugs.
“This method is more attractive than alternative forms of targeted therapy such as surgery to remove the brain region where seizures arise, or gene therapy that permanently alters the excitability of brain cells,” said Kullmann.
“Although there is currently no evidence that permanently suppressing excitability in a small area affects brain function, we cannot be sure that it would have no impact long-term. Our new method is completely reversible, so if there were any side effects then people could simply stop taking the CNO pill.”
Kullmann’s team is also working on optogenetics, a method of on-demand seizure suppression which uses light pulses to activate seizure-suppressing receptors in the “epileptogenic zone,” a small brain region that can usually be located with imaging techniques. An implanted device delivers light of the appropriate wavelength, intensity and duration to this brain area, where seizures begin.
Recent tests on rodents indicate that optogenetic seizure suppression is feasible in principle. But one of its main limitations in humans is the need for implantation of optical devices.
The researchers said the new drug/genetics method “is a promising approach to achieve region- and cell-type specific attenuation of neuronal excitability to suppress seizures.”
They add, “The pathway to translation is likely to be more direct than for optogenetics.”
Katzel, D. et al. Chemical-genetic attenuation of focal neocortical seizures. Nature Communications, 27 May 2014 doi:10.1038/ncomms4847
Researchers have developed a blood test that predicts if a person with risk factors for psychosis will go on to develop psychosis.
Investigators from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill believe the discovery is an important step forward in the accurate diagnosis of people who are experiencing the earliest stages of psychosis.
Psychosis includes hallucinations or delusions that define the development of severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia emerges in late adolescence and early adulthood and affects about one in every 100 people. In severe cases, the impact on a young person can be a life compromised, and the burden on family members can be almost as severe.
The study has been published in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin.
“The blood test included a selection of 15 measures of immune and hormonal system imbalances as well as evidence of oxidative stress,” said Diana O. Perkins, M.D., M.P.H.
“While further research is required before this blood test could be clinically available, these results provide evidence regarding the fundamental nature of schizophrenia, and point towards novel pathways that could be targets for preventative interventions,” Perkins said.
The research was conducted as part of an international effort to understand risk factors and mechanisms for development of psychotic disorders.
“Modern, computer-based methods can readily discover seemingly clear patterns from nonsensical data,” said Clark D. Jeffries, Ph.D., a bioinformatics scientist and co-author of the study. “Added to that, scientific results from studies of complex disorders like schizophrenia can be confounded by many hidden dependencies.
“Thus, stringent testing is necessary to build a useful classifier. We did that.”
Researchers believe the multiplex blood assay, if independently replicated and if integrated with studies of other classes of biomarkers, has the potential to be of high value in the clinical setting.
Teaching kids about how people change in adolescence may reduce the incidence of depression that often accompanies the transition to high school, a new study suggests.
Researchers believe the findings are important because so few interventions have successfully prevented the onset of depressive symptoms among high schoolers.
Nevertheless, psychological scientist and lead researcher David Scott Yeager< Ph.D., of the University of Texas at Austin, cautions that the intervention is not a “magic bullet” for depression and requires further testing.
The study is found in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
“We were amazed that a brief exposure to the message that people can change, during a key transition — the first few weeks of high school — could prevent increases in symptoms of depression,” says Yeager.
“It doesn’t come close to solving the whole problem. Yet finding anything promising has the potential to be important because prevention is far better than treatment — not only for financial reasons but also because it avoids human suffering.”
Adolescence is a challenging transitional period marked by puberty and also changes in friendship networks and status hierarchy.
Research suggests that many lifelong cases of major depression emerge during this developmental period.
Yeager and graduate student co-author Adriana Sum Miu of Emory University wondered whether debunking the belief that social adversities are fixed and unchangeable might ward off feelings of hopelessness and despair that can bloom into depression in teens.
“When teens are excluded or bullied it can be reasonable to wonder if they are ‘losers’ or ‘not likable,’” said Yeager.
“We asked: Could teaching teens that people can change reduce those thoughts? And if so could it even prevent overall symptoms of depression?”
To find out, Yeager and Miu conducted a longitudinal intervention study with about 600 ninth graders across three different high schools.
In September, at the beginning of the school year, students were randomly assigned to participate in the treatment intervention or a similar control activity, though they were not aware of the group assignment.
Both activities took place during a normal class period and required only paper or a computer. No one at the school knew the messages or reinforced them.
Students assigned to the treatment intervention read a passage describing how individuals’ personalities are subject to change.
The passage emphasized that being bullied is not the result of a fixed, personal deficiency, nor are bullies essentially “bad” people. An article about brain plasticity and endorsements from older students accompanied the passage.
After reading the materials, the students were asked to write their own narrative about how personalities can change, to be shared with future ninth graders.
Students in the control group read a passage that focused on the malleability of a trait not related to personality: athletic ability.
A follow-up nine months later in May showed that rates of clinically significant depressive symptoms rose by roughly 39 percent among students in the control group — an amount similar to what had been discovered in previous research on depression in adolescence.
Students who learned about the malleability of personality, on the other hand, showed no such increase in depressive symptoms, even if they were bullied.
The data revealed that the intervention specifically affected depressive symptoms of negative mood, feelings of ineffectiveness, and low self-esteem.
These findings are especially promising given the relatively small investment of time and effort required to carry out the intervention — but Yeager cautioned that these results raise many new questions.
“The findings replicate in three independent samples, but we know almost nothing about the boundary conditions of these effects or whether they will continue to show up in future studies,” said Yeager.
“For example, will this intervention work equally well for all students?
“What symptoms are most affected or least affected? Are there any negative side-effects?
“We think timing really matters — will the intervention work even just a few months later in freshman year? Could you do it one-on-one in clinical practice? We don’t have good answers to these questions yet.”
A new independent study finds that at best, only one-quarter of children treated with medication for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also receive psychotherapy.
RAND Corporation researchers reviewed utilization patterns among children with commercial insurance and discovered psychotherapy intervention is far lower in many parts of the country.
The findings have been published as a research letter in JAMA Pediatrics.
Researchers say the study is the first to document the substantial variation in receipt of talk therapy among U.S. children treated with ADHD medication — discovering a variation of more than sixfold across counties.
For many children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, medication alone can manage symptoms. But evidence shows that some affected children do better and can take lower doses of stimulant medications when they receive behavioral therapy along with ADHD drugs.
“Treatment of ADHD in children generates lots of controversy, primarily because of potential for overuse and abuse of stimulant medications,” said Dr. Walid F. Gellad, the study’s lead author.
“We wanted to find out among those who receive ADHD medications, how many are also receive billed psychotherapy services? The answer is few, but it actually depends on where you live.”
Using a large commercial claims database, researchers examined records of more than 300,000 children aged 17 and younger from 1,516 counties across the U.S. who had received a prescription for medication for ADHD. Sparsely populated counties were not included in the study.
The researchers looked at how many children receive some amount of talk therapy along with medication, and also examined the supply of licensed psychologists in the counties studied.
Less than a quarter of those prescribed ADHD drugs received any talk therapy in the same year they received medication, 13 percent had at least four therapy visits and seven percent had eight or more therapy visits.
And in 200 U.S. counties, fewer than one in 10 children getting ADHD medication received any talk therapy.
“In areas of the country where rates of use are so low, it indicates that many kids with private insurance who could benefit from therapy are not receiving it,” said Gellad, who also is affiliated with the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
The percentage of children who received therapy along with medication was lower in those counties with fewer licensed psychologists, but didn’t always reflect the number of available psychologists.
For example, Sacramento County in California and Miami-Dade County in Florida have the same number of licensed psychologists per capita.
Yet almost half the children with ADHD in the California county received therapy along with drugs, compared to only about 20 percent of those in the Florida county.
Source: Rand Corporation
New clinical practice guidelines recommend two specific deep brain stimulation (DBS) techniques for some patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) who fail to respond to other treatments.
The guidelines for bilateral DBS, which were found to reduce symptoms by nearly one-third, are endorsed by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS).
Dr. Clement Hamani of Toronto Western Hospital led a multispecialty expert group in a systematic review of research on the effectiveness of DBS for OCD. Hamani and colleagues were tasked with analyzing the supporting evidence and developing an initial guideline for the use of DBS for patients with OCD.
Their findings are published in the journal Neurosurgery.
Deep brain stimulation — placement of electrodes in specific areas of the brain, followed by electrical stimulation of those areas — has become an important treatment for patients with Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders.
Although many patients with OCD respond well to medications and/or psychotherapy, 40 to 60 percent continue to experience symptoms despite treatment. Over the past decade, a growing number of reports have suggested that DBS may be an effective alternative in these “medically refractory” cases.
The review and guideline development process was sponsored by the American Society of Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery and the CNS. Out of more than 350 papers, the reviewers identified seven high-quality studies evaluating DBS for OCD.
Based on that evidence, they conclude that bilateral stimulation (on both sides of the brain) of two brain “targets” — areas called the subthalamic nucleus and the nucleus accumbens — can be regarded as effective treatments for OCD.
In controlled clinical trials, both techniques improved OCD symptoms by around 30 percent on a standard rating scale.
That evidence forms the basis for a clinical guideline stating that bilateral DBS is a “reasonable therapeutic option” for patients with severe OCD that does not respond to other treatments.
The guideline also notes that there is “insufficient evidence” supporting the use of any type of unilateral DBS target (one side of the brain) for OCD.
The review highlights the difficulties of studying the effectiveness of DBS for OCD; because most patients respond to medical treatment, studies of this highly specialized treatment typically include only small numbers of patients.
Hamani and coauthors believe additional research is necessary to identify the most effective brain targets and the subgroups of patients most likely to benefit.
Despite the limited evidence base, DBS therapy for OCD has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration under a humanitarian device exemption.
Hamani and coauthors note that various safeguards are in place to ensure appropriate use, and prevent overuse, of DBS for OCD.
While research continues, they believe that functional neurosurgeons should continue to work with other specialists to ensure that patients with severe, medically refractory OCD continue to have access to potentially beneficial DBS therapy.
Source: Wolters Kluwer Health
A new paper suggests the strict Chinese parenting style advocated in a controversial 2011 book may do more harm than good.
University of California, Riverside, researchers discovered a parenting style that advocates less support and more punitive parent techniques might lead to low self-esteem and school adjustment difficulties in children.
Moreover, the parenting style may leave children vulnerable to depression and problem behaviors.
The study, believed to be the first that provides empirical support to this idea, refutes the idea that the traditional, strict “Chinese” upbringing, which gained widespread attention in the book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua, is superior.
“Our research shows that Tiger Mother type of parenting, specifically controlling, punitive, and less supportive type of parenting, is really not working in this sample of Chinese adolescents,” said Cixin Wang, Ph.D., an assistant professor at University of California Riverside’s Graduate School of Education.
“It also shows that it is important for Chinese parents, who tend to be less emotionally expressive and use less praise in parenting, to show their approval, love, and support for their children.”
The paper was published in the Journal of Family Issues. It is based on data from a youth survey in Hangzhou, China. The sample included 589 middle and high school children.
The survey asked the children about their perceptions of the behavior of their mothers and fathers, as well as their self-esteem, school adjustment, depression, and problem behavior.
Previous research has shown that Chinese parents are less likely to show support for their children through affection. Instead, they express support through efforts to control and govern their youngsters.
Previous research on Western cultures has found that when parents exert strong psychological control over their children it leads to problem behavior, low self-esteem, and low grades among the children.
However, the impact of psychological control and strictness in Chinese culture has been less clear. Wang and her co-authors show the findings from the sample of Chinese students are consistent with those from the Western students.
Parental support and monitoring were associated with positive adolescent adjustment, but permissiveness and punitiveness were linked to negative adolescent adjustment.
Psychological control, specifically love withdrawal techniques, did not predict any adolescent outcomes after controlling for other parenting practices.
The study also has implications for Chinese-Americans and other Asian-Americans, who are often trying to balance traditional cultural norms with popular parenting practice in American society today.
Future work by Wang will focus on mental health literacy among Asian-Americans students, specifically around the stigma of seeking help related to depression and other mental health difficulties.
She is interested in these issues in part because of her upbringing in China. Growing up in Shanghai, she was not frequently praised by her parents. She remembers being in first grade, getting a 99 percent on an assignment and her mother being upset she didn’t get 100 percent.
“I hear Asian parents saying that they are concerned about using too much praise with their children because they were not brought up this way,” Wang said.
“In a way, I missed out on getting parental praise and approval. And, in a way, I don’t want a whole generation of Asian kids to miss that really important piece too.”