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Updated: 1 hour 9 min ago

It’s Not Easy Being Green — At Least for Men

Sun, 08/28/2016 - 6:30am

New research provides evidence that shoppers who engage in environmentally friendly behaviors are stereotyped as more feminine. What’s more, they also see themselves as more feminine.

But in a series of studies, researchers showed that men are more open to purchasing green products if their masculinity gets a boost through the products’ branding.

“Previous research shows that men tend to be more concerned about maintaining a masculine identity than women are with their feminine identity,” said James Wilkie, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business.

“We therefore thought that men might be more open to environmental products if we made them feel secure in their masculinity, so they are less threatened by adopting a green product.”

For the study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, the researchers used two approaches: First by affirming a man’s masculinity before introducing him to environmental products and then changing the associations people have toward green products.

“We documented how both men and women find green products and actions to be feminine,” Wilkie said.

“We thought that if you reframe environmental products to be more masculine, men would be more likely to adopt them. Instead of using traditional marketing messages about green products, which are typically perceived as feminine, we changed the messages to be more masculine in nature by changing the phrasing, colors, etc. When we did that, we found that men were more willing to ‘go green.'”

One study was conducted in China at a BMW dealership and focused on a model known for being an eco-friendly car. While surveying shoppers, the researchers simply changed the name of the car from the traditional, environmentally friendly name to “Protection,” which is a masculine term in China. Despite all other descriptions of the car remaining the same, the name change did increase men’s interest in the car.

In another study, the team compared men’s and women’s willingness to donate to green charities. They called one “Friends of Nature,” with a bright green logo featuring a tree. The second was named “Fun for Wilderness Rangers” showcasing a wolf howling to the moon. Women favored the more traditional green marketing, while more men were drawn to the masculine branding over the traditional.

Wilkie advises marketers mimic successful approaches in other products to combat feminine stereotypes.

“Body wash used to be considered a very feminine product, but companies changed that perception by marketing their products in a more masculine fashion,” he said.

“They used more masculine fonts and colors in packaging and hired very masculine spokesmen, explicitly stating that the product was for men only. It worked — as it also did for diet soft drinks. Again, there was a perception that ‘diet’ products were for women. Marketers changed their phrasing to ‘zero-calorie’ drinks. Pepsi Max stated that it was the ‘first diet cola for men’ and Dr. Pepper 10 warned, ‘It’s not for women.’

“These campaigns appeared to get more men to purchase the product, yet did not scare away women,” he concluded. “We think that green products can be successfully marketed in the same way.”

Source: University of Notre Dame

Virtual Peer Pressure Works Just as Well as the Real Thing

Sat, 08/27/2016 - 8:45am

A new study shows that peer pressure can spark competition, as well as shape behavior, even if the competitor is a computer-simulated peer.

Researchers at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering found that this “fake” competition can even be used for the good of science.

Maurizio Porfiri, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and director of the Dynamical Systems Lab at New York University Tandon, and Oded Nov, an associate professor of technology management and innovation, designed an experiment to test whether virtual peer pressure could boost individual participation in a citizen science project they founded in 2012 called Brooklyn Atlantis.

Citizen science projects rely on volunteers from the public to aid scientists by collecting and reporting data using their home computers or smartphones. Familiar examples include projects tracking the movement of monarch butterflies, efforts to identify new planets, and even an online game challenging users to find new ways to fold protein structures.

Brooklyn Atlantis is a citizen science project supported by the National Science Foundation that revolves around a mobile robot designed by researcher Jeffrey Laut, a recent New York University graduate, as part of his dissertation.

The instrumented mobile robot serves as prototypes for water drones that Laut and Porfiri hope to commercialize through a recent New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) grant. The robot patrols the Gowanus Canal, the notoriously polluted Brooklyn waterway and Superfund site, transmitting a constant stream of data on water quality and temperature, as well as images both above and below the waterline.

Citizen scientists volunteer to view the images and create “tags” to identify objects in the photos, which may include humans, wildlife, or specific pieces of litter or debris.

But crowd-sourced science projects face a similar challenge: Despite having many registered participants, the majority of contributions come from a small, highly engaged group of volunteers, the researchers noted. Increasing participation levels has long been a goal.

The research team created an experiment to determine if the presence of a virtual peer could enhance volunteer contributions. They redesigned the interface of the Brooklyn Atlantis page where users view and tag images, adding an indicator bar at the top of the screen to display the number of times another participant had tagged the same image. This was the performance of the virtual peer, and the researchers created five distinct scenarios for the virtual peer’s performance.

Splitting the 120 participants, they formed a control group with no virtual peer and two groups for which the virtual peer’s performance varied according to an independent algorithm. For the three remaining groups, the virtual peer’s performance varied in relation to the user: One consistently underperformed the real user, one consistently outperformed, and the other performed on par with the real user.

The results show that pressure from a virtual peer can influence the behavior of a citizen scientist, according to the researchers.

The highest-performing group of real users — the ones who tagged the most objects in Brooklyn Atlantis photos — were those who saw a virtual peer that consistently outperformed them. Conversely, the group who saw a virtual peer that underperformed them contributed fewer tags than any other group, including the peer-free control group.

The group whose virtual peer matched their own level of activity also tagged more objects than a control group, indicating that perhaps the mere presence of a peer leads to increased performance.

“Social comparison is a strong driver of behavior, and it’s exciting to see that even simulated performance was enough to influence our participants to tag more or fewer objects,” Porfiri said. “Even more exciting was the fact that we can anticipate such a response using a mathematical model.”

He noted that the real-life participants mostly mirrored the activity of the simulated participant, indicating that this sort of norm-setting may help boost participation in citizen science projects.

“The study taught us how the design of a social participation system can benefit from incorporating social psychology research,” Nov explained.

The researchers believe these findings add to the growing body of research into how to increase engagement in citizen science projects. Alongside issuing rewards, points, or other forms of “gamification,” using peer performance as a motivator shows clear promise, they said.

Further research is needed to determine a level of competition that is healthy rather than counterproductive, they added.

Source: New York University Tandon School of Engineering
Photo: Screenshot of the Brooklyn Atlantis interface. Researchers found that competition from even a virtual peer can encourage participants to contribute more often. Source: Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology 16 AUG 2016.

Prevention Program Linked to Increased Likelihood of Teen Pregnancy

Sat, 08/27/2016 - 8:00am

A popular teenage pregnancy prevention program that involves a baby simulator has been found to actually increase the likelihood of teens becoming pregnant, according to a new study.

Published in The Lancet, the study looks at the effectiveness of the Virtual Infant Parenting (VIP) program, an Australian adaptation of a program in the U.S. called RealityWorks, also known as “Baby Think It Over.” The baby sim program is offered in schools in 89 countries around the world.

Intended as a pregnancy prevention intervention, the VIP program includes educational sessions on a variety of topics, including contraception, sexual health, the financial costs of having a baby, and more. Teens also watch a video documentary of teenage mothers talking about their experiences.

There’s also a workbook, as well as an infant simulator — a doll that cries when it needs to be fed, burped, rocked, or changed and measures and reports on mishandling, crying time, the number of changes, and general care. The girls are tasked with taking care of the “baby” over a weekend.

The new study included 57 schools in Western Australia. Schools were randomly allocated to receive either the VIP program (1,267 girls), which is delivered by school nurses over six consecutive days, or to receive the standard health education curriculum (1,567 girls).

All girls were aged 13-15 at the start of the study and they were followed until the age of 20.

The researchers then correlated the data from the schools with data from hospital records and abortion clinics.

What they found is that girls enrolled in the VIP program had higher rates of pregnancy and abortion. About eight percent of the girls who went through the VIP program had at least one birth, compared to four percent for the girls who received the standard health education curriculum.

Additionally, nine percent of the girls in the VIP group had an abortion, compared to six percent in the control group.

“Our study shows that the pregnancy prevention program delivered in Western Australia, which involves an infant simulator, does not reduce the risk of pregnancy in teenage girls. In fact, the risk of pregnancy is actually increased compared to girls who didn’t take part in the intervention,” said lead author Dr Sally Brinkman of the Telethon Kids Institute at the University of Western Australia.

“Similar programs are increasingly being offered in schools around the world, and evidence now suggests they do not have the desired long-term effect of reducing teenage pregnancy. These interventions are likely to be an ineffective use of public resources for pregnancy prevention.”

While the study included a large number of teenagers, the researchers caution that overall participation was quite low (45 percent in the control schools and 58 percent in the intervention schools), so there is no information about the girls who chose not to enroll.

They did note, however, that participation in this type of intervention is voluntary in Australia, so the girls who did take part are likely to be an accurate reflection of those who would normally do so.

Source: The Lancet

Extending the Positive Effects of Exposure Therapy

Sat, 08/27/2016 - 7:15am

Certain anxiety disorders, such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and specific phobias, are often treated with exposure therapy, in which the patient is gradually exposed to the object or context that provokes the anxiety reaction. If exposure therapy is successful, a new “safe” memory is formed, which overshadows the old fear memory.

But some patients don’t experience success with exposure therapy, in part because the old fear memory may return at some later point even after an initially successful exposure. In addition, older and stronger memories have proven to be difficult to disrupt.

In a new study, researchers at Uppsala University and Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have now demonstrated that the improvements gained by exposure therapy can be made to last longer, and they show for the first time that it is possible to use this method to reduce fear in life-long phobias. They accomplished this by disrupting the recreation of fear-memories in anxiety patients by exposing them to a short-lived exposure before a longer exposure.

For the study, the researchers exposed individuals with arachnophobia (morbid fear of spiders) to spider pictures while measuring their brain activity in the amygdala, a part of the brain that is strongly linked to fear. They found that when they activated a fear memory for only a short amount of time — in this case, only 10 minutes — before engaging in a more extensive exposure, it led to significantly reduced amygdala activity when the subjects looked at the spider pictures again the following day.

In other words, the memory was made unstable and re-saved in its weakened form before the longer exposure. This made it so the fear could not return as easily.

The day after exposure, the group that received an initial activation of their spider fear showed reduced amygdala activity in comparison with a control group. Avoidance of spiders also decreased, which could be predicted from the degree of amygdala activation.

“It is striking that such a simple manipulation so clearly affects brain activity and behaviour. A simple modification of existing treatments could possibly improve effects. This would mean more people getting rid of their anxieties after treatment and fewer relapses,” says Johannes Björkstrand, Ph.D. student at the Department of Psychology, Uppsala University.

The findings are published in the journal Current Biology.

Source: Uppsala University


Western Diet Linked to Greater Risk for Alzheimer’s

Sat, 08/27/2016 - 6:30am

A new review of international data adds to the growing evidence that diet plays a significant role in the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and that populations consuming a Western diet — more meat, sweets, and high-fat dairy products — tend to have the highest rates of the disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is increasing worldwide. Currently, about 42 million people have dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common type. The greatest risk factors appear to be associated with diet, particularly the excessive consumption of meat, commonly found in Westernized diets.

“Mounting evidence from ecological and observational studies, as well as studies of mechanisms, indicates that the Western dietary pattern — especially the large amount of meat in that diet — is strongly associated with risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and several other chronic diseases,” said Dr. William B.Grant, author of the review published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

His findings, which come from ecological and observational studies, also show that fruits, vegetables, grains, low-fat dairy products, legumes, and fish are associated with reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

In addition, the researchers investigated the specific risk each country and region faces for developing Alzheimer’s disease based on their associated dietary habits. They compared the Alzheimer’s disease prevalence of 10 countries — Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Egypt, India, Mongolia, Nigeria, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, and the United States — to dietary data that had been gathered five, 10, and 15 years before the prevalence data.

They found that when many people in Japan left behind the traditional diet to start consuming a more Westernized diet, Alzheimer’s disease rates rose from one percent in 1985 to seven percent in 2008.

Overall, the findings show that consumption of meat or animal products (excluding milk) had the highest correlations with Alzheimer’s disease prevalence.

Residents of the United States seem to be at particular risk, with each person in the U.S. having about a four percent chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Grant says that “reducing meat consumption could significantly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease as well as of several cancers, diabetes mellitus type II, stroke, and, likely, chronic kidney disease.”

“Although the traditional Mediterranean diet is associated with about half the risk for Alzheimer’s disease of the Western diet, the traditional diets of countries such as India, Japan, and Nigeria, with very low meat consumption, are associated with an additional 50 percent reduction in risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Grant.

Source: Taylor & Francis


School Nurses Can Step In When Digital Dating Goes Bad

Fri, 08/26/2016 - 8:30am

Physical or sexual abuse can mar teens’ early romantic relationships, and dating violence these days can be perpetrated digitally by harassing, stalking, or controlling a romantic partner via technology and social media.

A new study finds that school nurses are often some of the first to identify such problems and play an active role in preventing them from happening in the first place. They are also in a natural position to act as first responders for victims of an abusive romantic relationship.

Information on how school nurses can help these teens experiencing cyber abuse is discussed in an article in NASN School Nurse.

As online and offline forms of dating violence often go together, it is critical that school nurses are able to identify different types of digital dating violence. Digital dating abuse was also found to be associated with online bullying.

“School nurses can prepare for this task by being aware and making others aware that online and offline behaviors are becoming increasingly blurred in teens’ lives and that digital dating abuse may be a warning sign of traditional abuse,” said Jeff Temple, Ph.D., co-author of the paper and associate professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

“Most importantly, school nurses can engage in conversations with students about digital dating abuse, safe Internet use and healthy relationships, letting students know that they can come to them if they encounter online or offline dating violence.”

In order to provide credible advice to teens, Temple said it’s important that school nurses are able to speak adolescents’ language. They should become familiar and stay connected with advances in technology and popular social media apps.

Cyber-dating abuse conversations could focus on what constitutes healthy communication within a romantic relationship and what signals could lead to abuse.

“Potential red flags can be identified, such as sharing pin codes and passwords to phones and apps, excessive contacting or demanding a partner to send a picture of where they are or whom they are with to ‘prove’ that they are telling the truth,” Temple said.

“Because of their inexperience with romantic relationships, teens might not know how to appropriately cope with feelings of uncertainty about their relationship and may resort to monitoring as a coping mechanism.”

Also, some teens do not always identify abusive behaviors as such, instead considering them to be simply annoying.

Previous investigations have found that 26 percent of surveyed high school students reported being a victim of cyber-dating abuse and 12 percent reported having perpetrated cyber-dating abuse. Of these students, nine percent of the teens reported that they were both victim and perpetrator.

In previous studies, Temple also has found that victims of cyber-dating abuse are more likely to binge drink, be sexually active and participate in risky behavior.

Source: University of Texas Medical Branch – Galveston

Study Backs Assertion That Mental Challenge Can Reduce Dementia Risk

Fri, 08/26/2016 - 7:45am

Research suggests that staying cognitively active can reduce the risk of dementia. But questions have been raised about whether these studies reveal a real cause-and-effect relationship or if the associations could result from unmeasured factors.

A new study supports the evidence behind this research, as a Boston-based research team found that while the studies have some flaws, reading, playing games, and attending cultural events can indeed reduce dementia risk.

Researchers conducted a formal bias analysis and concluded that, while potentially confounding factors might have affected previous studies’ results, it is doubtful that such factors totally account for observed associations between cognitive activities and a reduced risk of dementia.

“Our paper lends support to a potential role for late-in-life cognitive activity in prevention of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Deborah Blacker M.D., Sc.D., director of the Gerontology Research Unit in the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry and senior author of the paper.

The report appears in the journal Epidemiology.

“While it is possible that socioeconomic factors such as educational level might contribute to the association between cognitive activity and reduced risk, any bias introduced by such factors is probably not strong enough to fully account for the observed association.”

Blacker and her colleagues from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health maintain a database on the Alzheimer’s Research Forum website. On the site they catalog evidence from observational studies and some clinical trials about known and proposed risk and protective factors for the devastating neurologic disorder.

The current paper was developed from the database’s systematic review of studies examining the impact of cognitive activity. The research was conducted by lead author Guatam Sajeev, ScD, as part of his school dissertation.

The research team analyzed 12 peer-reviewed epidemiologic studies that examined the relationship between late-in-life cognitive activities and the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

The studies were selected on the basis of pre-specified criteria for the AlzRisk database. The studies included almost 14,000 individual participants with each consistently showing a benefit, sometimes substantial, for cognitive activity.

Since any observational studies are likely to be influenced by unmeasured factors — such as participants’ socioeconomic level or the presence of conditions like depression — the researchers also conducted a bias analysis.

This evaluation was designed to determine how much such factors might influence reported associations between the amount of cognitive activity and dementia risk. The analysis indicated that bias due to unmeasured factors was unlikely to account for all of the association because the impact of such factors is likely to be considerably smaller than the observed effect.

The group also investigated the possible role of reverse causation — whether a reduction in cognitive activity among those already in the long phase of cognitive decline that precedes Alzheimer’s dementia might have led to an apparent rather than a real causal relationship.

The findings of that analysis could not rule out the possibility that reverse causation contributed substantially to the observed associations, but analyses restricted to studies with longer term follow-up might be better able to address this question, the authors note.

“Ultimately, clinical trials with long-term follow-up are the surest way to definitively address reverse causation,” says co-author and AlzRisk co-director Jennifer Weuve, M.P.H., Sc.D., of Boston University School of Public Health.

“Trials could also confront the vexing question of whether training to improve specific cognitive skills has benefits that extend into everyday functions. But not every question about cognitive activity is well-suited for a trial. To fill those gaps, innovations in epidemiology, such as the analytic techniques used in this study, should help us get even greater insights from available observational data.”

Blacker adds, “Cognitive activity looks like it may offer some modest protection, and based on our bias analysis, I am somewhat less skeptical than I was previously. But remember that any impact will be relative, not absolute.

“I typically advise people to engage in cognitive activities that they find interesting and enjoyable for their own sake. There is no evidence that one kind of activity is better than another, so I would advise against spending money on programs claiming to protect against dementia.”

Source: Massachusetts General Hospital/EurekAlert

Psychosis Tied to Low Levels of Physical Activity

Fri, 08/26/2016 - 7:00am

People with psychosis tend to engage in much lower levels of physical activity compared to the general population, and this is often due to impairments tied to the illness, such as depression, cognitive problems, mobility difficulties, and pain, according to a large international study led by researchers at King’s College London.

People with psychosis die more than a decade earlier than the general population, and this is most often linked to cardiovascular disease. Since an active lifestyle is considered just as effective in preventing cardiovascular disease as medication (such as statins), the researchers set out to to investigate whether people with psychosis are meeting standard levels of physical activity.

The researchers collected data from the World Health Survey, which includes more than 200,000 people aged 18-64 from nearly 50 low-and-middle-income countries. The subjects were divided into three groups: people with a diagnosis of psychosis, those with psychotic symptoms but no diagnosis, and a control group (of people with no diagnosis of psychosis and no symptoms in the past 12 months).

The participants were in their local communities at the time of the study and were interviewed to determine whether their physical activity met the standards established by the World Health Organization: at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week, including walking, cycling, household chores, or sports.

The findings show that, overall, people with psychosis were 36 percent more likely not to meet the recommended physical activity levels compared to controls. When the researchers looked at men only, those with psychosis were more than two times more likely not to meet the recommended levels compared to people in the control sample.

“People with psychosis have high levels of cardiovascular risk and die earlier as a result,” said Dr. Fiona Gaughran, from King’s College London and the South London and Maudsley (SLaM) National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust.

“Since physical activity is a key protective factor for cardiovascular disease, our finding that men with psychosis are particularly inactive means that they may benefit most from interventions to increase physical activity and reduce social isolation.”

Gaughran said it is unclear why men with psychosis showed such low levels of physical activity. “Although perhaps the earlier onset of illness typically seen in males means that lifestyle habits may have been altered over time by aspects of the illness or its management, such as negative symptoms, sedating medications or hospital admissions,” she said.

When examining potential barriers to physical activity, the researchers found that mobility difficulties, pain, depression, and cognitive impairment explained low levels of physical activity in people with psychosis.

“Understanding and overcoming these barriers could be an important strategy to help people with psychosis be more active, and potentially to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Brendon Stubbs, also of King’s College London and SLaM.

Their findings are published in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin.

Source: King’s College London

Social Media Can Aid Seniors’ Mental & Physical Health

Fri, 08/26/2016 - 6:15am

New research finds that contrary to popular belief, older adults enjoy emailing, instant messaging, Facebook, and other forms of social technology.

Michigan State University researchers found that online networking appears to reduce seniors’ loneliness and even improve their health.

Dr. William Chopik, an assistant professor of psychology, discovered social technology use among older adults is linked to better self-rated health and fewer chronic illnesses and depressive symptoms.

The research appears online in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.

“Older adults think the benefits of social technology greatly outweigh the costs and challenges of technology,” said Chopik. “And the use of this technology could benefit their mental and physical health over time.”

Using data from 591 participants in the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study, Chopik examined the benefits of using technology for social connection among older adults (participants’ average age was about 68).

Social technology included email; social networks such as Facebook and Twitter; online video or phone calls, such as Skype; online chatting or instant messaging; and smartphones.

Previous research on technology use across the life span has focused on the digital divide — or the disparities between younger and older adults — painting a rather bleak picture of seniors’ ability and motivation to adapt to a changing technological landscape.

The new research challenges previous findings, or perhaps provides a timely representation of how digital media is now being incorporated into baby boomers retirement years.

Chopik discovered more than 95 percent of participants said they were either “somewhat” or “very” satisfied with technology, while 72 percent said they were not opposed to learning new technologies.

“Despite the attention that the digital divide has garnered in recent years, a large proportion of older adults use technology to maintain their social networks and make their lives easier,” Chopik said.

“In fact, there may be portions of the older population that use technology as often as younger adults.”

The study also found that social technology use predicted lower levels of loneliness, which in turn predicted better mental and physical health.

Participants who used social technology more generally were more satisfied with life and had fewer depressive symptoms and chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

“Each of the links between social technology use and physical and psychological health was mediated by reduced loneliness,” Chopik said.

“As we know, close relationships with other people are a large determinant of physical health and well-being, and social technology has the potential to cultivate successful relationships among older adults.”

Source: Michigan State University

Telecommuting Can Challenge Leadership Efforts

Fri, 08/26/2016 - 5:30am

Researchers from Georgia Southern University and Brigham Young University have found an “in-person” bias whereby workers are inclined toward people within the same physical location.

“People who are working remotely on a team can be at a disadvantage when it comes to being seen as a leader,” said Dr. Cody Reeves, assistant professor of Organizational Leadership and Strategy at Brigham Young University.

In other words, if a company has a supervisor at headquarters communicating virtually with the rest of a team physically located together, it’s more likely to have leadership problems.

Researchers discovered common management problems associated with telecommuting include power struggles, confusion, communication issues — all the things execs don’t want when they’re trying to get work done.

Investigators have the following advice: If you want an effective leader when you have telecommuters on the team, make sure the leader is either physically located with the majority of the group, or make sure everyone is telecommuting.

Reeves and colleagues at Georgia Southern, the University of Iowa, and Oklahoma State tested their theories of leadership by setting up 84 four-person teams of college students, then randomly assigning them team configurations.

The configurations included matching teams physically together, creating teams that were partially co-located and partially virtual, and having teams that were completely virtual (interaction only through technology).

The researchers then had the teams complete a decision-making activity, then answering a survey about the experience wherein they rated other team members.

“We learned that if you want to have a clear leader emerge, you are better off having them all located face to face or all working remotely,” Reeves said.

“It’s when you start mixing and matching — some on site, some virtual — that’s when the real confusion comes into play.”

If anything, Reeves thinks the research should give companies pause when considering telecommuting policies. That’s something that didn’t happen enough 10 years ago when telecommuting became all the rage.

“They were so concerned about whether or not they could do it, they never stopped to think if they should,” Reeves said, invoking the movie “Jurassic Park.”

“Fortunately, many companies now appear to be taking a more deliberate approach when deciding whether and when telecommuting makes sense for their operation.”

Dr. Steven Charlier, assistant professor of management at Georgia Southern University, is the lead author of the study, which published in The Leadership Quarterly. Drs. Greg Stewart (University of Iowa) and Lindsey Greco (Oklahoma State University) are also coauthors.

Source: Brigham Young University

Disrupted Sleep Patterns Up Risk of Suicide

Thu, 08/25/2016 - 8:30am

A new U.K. study finds a clear link between sleep problems and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Researchers from The University of Manchester and the University of Oxford interviewed 18 participants about the role sleep problems have on suicidal tendencies.

From the discussions, investigators identified three inter-related pathways to suicidal thoughts arising from sleep problems.

The first was that being awake at night heightened the risks of suicidal thoughts and attempts, which in part was seen as a consequence of the lack of help or resources available at night.

Secondly, the research found that a prolonged failure to achieve a good night’s sleep made life harder for respondents, adding to depression, as well as increasing negative thinking, attention difficulties, and inactivity.

Finally, respondents said sleep acted as an alternative to suicide, providing an escape from their problems. However, the desire to use sleep as an avoidance tactic led to increased day time sleeping which in turn caused disturbed sleeping patterns — reinforcing the first two pathways.

The study is published in BMJ Open.

Donna Littlewood, lead author of the study, said the research has implications for service providers, such as health care specialist and social services.

“Our research underscores the importance of restoring healthy sleep in relation to coping with mental health problems, suicidal thoughts, and behaviors.

Moreover, the need for appropriate night time support services is paramount as researchers discovered that that those who are awake in the night are at an increased risk of suicide.

Source: University of Manchester

How Teens Learn to Manage Their Emotions

Thu, 08/25/2016 - 7:45am

A daughter’s transition through adolescence is a sensitive period for both the child and mother. In a new study, researchers observed how mother-daughter pairs were able to manage rapid transitions between emotional states and the so-called “emotional rollercoaster” of adolescence.

Queen’s University researcher Tom Hollenstein and Jessica Lougheed explain that the study reflects a growing need to examine how typically developing adolescents — those without a diagnosis of any major mental health issue — learn to manage their emotions.

“Being able to effectively manage emotions in different kinds of emotional contexts — called ’emotion regulation’ — is a crucial part of healthy development,” says Dr. Lougheed, a co-principal investigator on the study and now a post-doctoral researcher at Pennsylvania State University.

The researchers examined how mother-daughter pairs were able to manage transitions between emotional states. Interestingly, researchers discovered mothers also have significant emotional transitions during a child’s adolescence.

Ninety-six typically developing adolescent females and their mothers responded individually to a questionnaire consisting of questions on relationship quality, “internalizing” of symptoms such as anxiety and depression, and demographics.

The pairs then answered a questionnaire on times when they felt happy, worried, proud, frustrated, and grateful toward each other and took part in a series of three-minute conversations about those emotional experiences.

The videotaped sessions were played back and coded based on the emotions mothers and daughters expressed during the conversations.

As expected, pairs with low flexibility — those who displayed difficulty transitioning from one state to another — reported lower relationship quality and higher levels of maternal symptoms. Those who showed moderate levels of flexibility showed higher relationship quality and lower maternal symptoms.

However, those with the highest degree of flexibility showed no associations with relationship quality or symptoms — suggesting that a moderate degree of flexibility is optimal for a strong and healthy relationship.

“We have speculated, but never tested the hypothesis, that flexibility is sort of an inverted-U function in terms that a certain amount is just right, but too much and you become disorganized and leaning towards a lack of coherence,” says Dr. Hollenstein, the co-principal investigator on the study.

Researchers also discovered that the degree of flexibility demonstrated was consistently related to the mothers’ depression and anxiety symptoms — though not with the symptoms reported by their daughters.

Dr. Lougheed states this finding is a good reminder that adolescence is not just a time of development for youth, but a developmental transition for parents as well.

“The adolescent developmental period is an important transition for parents and adolescents alike,” says Dr. Lougheed.

“Generally speaking, parents and teens who are able to ‘go with the flow’ of new emotional experiences in their relationship will likely be show better well-being in other ways as well.”

The full study, titled Socioemotional Flexibility in Mother-Daughter Dyads: Riding the Emotional Rollercoaster across Positive and Negative Contexts appears in the journal Emotion.

Source: Queen’s University

Acupuncture Offers Pain Relief for Kids with Complex Medical Issues

Thu, 08/25/2016 - 7:00am

Many young patients with long-term medical conditions such as cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, and other brain and musculoskeletal conditions suffer from chronic pain. A new case study of nine patients has found that the practice of acupuncture may be a safe, effective alternative for pain relief in children with such complex medical conditions.

The findings show that all nine of the patients in the study experienced some measure of relief, spanning from decreased pain to complete relief.

The non-toxic and minimally invasive practice of acupuncture makes it a particularly attractive option for children with chronic care conditions, since many of these patients are already burdened with frequent surgeries and several types of medications.

Furthermore, many of these drugs come with unpleasant side effects — such as weight gain, sleepiness, and mood swings — that burden both the child and their families, said lead author Scott Schwantes, M.D., a pediatrician at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“A lot of these patients have gone through a tremendous amount of physical and emotional pain,” said Schwantes. “These kids have a complex array of distressing symptoms that decrease their quality of life. For some of them, acupuncture may be a valuable tool to add to their treatment.”

The research involved a case review of nine patients who received acupuncture treatments in the clinic or hospital between June 2014 and June 2015. Patients received treatments based on their backgrounds and conditions. Treatments included energetic work, biomechanical treatment (surface release technique, percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), and/or ear stimulation.

The findings show that every single one of the patients received notable benefits from acupuncture, spanning from decreased pain to complete relief.

On average, the acupuncture procedure takes about 30 minutes and involves the process of strategically placing a series of needles at precise points on a patient. The minimally invasive outpatient procedure could be a safe and effective alternative for children who are already burdened with surgeries, frequent hospital stays and medications, said Schwantes. The biggest stumbling block to the procedure is that some children have needle phobia.

“The proof is with the patients. They’re the ones who are successfully recovering from pain,” Schwantes says. “This study shows that acupuncture can be a safe, well-tolerated, and effective therapy for children and young adults with pediatric-onset disabilities.”

The findings are published in the journal Medical Acupuncture.

Source: Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare


Aging Worries Influence Die Young Philosophy

Thu, 08/25/2016 - 6:15am

New research addresses the question of why do some people want to live a very long time, while others would prefer to die relatively young?

Public Health experts from Columbia University investigated how long young and middle-aged adults in the United States say they want to live in relation to a number of personal characteristics.

Vegard Skirbekk, Ph.D., found that more than one out of six people would prefer to die younger than age 80, before reaching average life expectancy. Interestingly, age, gender, or education did not influence the preference of a life shorter or longer than average life expectancy.

The study is one of the first to investigate how younger adults perceive and anticipate their own aging. Findings are published online in the journal Ageing and Society.

Using data from a telephone survey of over 1600 adults aged 18 to 64 years, the authors also found that one-third would prefer a life expectancy in the eighties, or about equal to average life expectancy, and approximately one-quarter would prefer to live into their nineties, somewhat longer than average life expectancy.

The remaining participants said they hope to live to 100 or more years. Participants were on average 42 years old, half were women and 33 percent were university graduates.

“We were particularly interested in whether how long people want to live would be related to their expectations about what their life in old age will be like,” said Dr. Skirbekk.

The results, which were controlled for overall happiness, confirmed that having fewer positive old age expectations was associated with the preference to die before reaching average life expectancy.

On the contrary, having fewer negative old expectations was associated with the preference to live either somewhat longer or much longer than average life expectancy.

“Having rather bleak expectations of what life will be like in old age seems to undermine the desire to live up to and beyond current levels of average life expectancy,” said first author Catherine Bowen, Ph.D. and expert on mental representations of old age and the aging process.

“People who embrace the ‘better to die young’ attitude may underestimate their ability to cope with negative age-related life experiences as well as to find new sources of well-being in old age.”

African-American participants were particularly likely to report wanting to live 100 or more years. People who identified themselves as Hispanic or as an ethnicity other than White/Caucasian, Black/African-American or Hispanic were more likely to indicate a preference for a life shorter than average life expectancy.

In spite of the fact that women live about five years longer than men, gender was unrelated to how long people say they want to live.

The authors also found that education was unrelated to the preferred length of life, although people with more formal education tend to live longer.

“For many, it seems that the fear of becoming old may outweigh the fear of dying,” observed Dr. Skirbekk.

Source: Columbia University/EurekAlert

Older but Happier

Thu, 08/25/2016 - 5:30am

New research provides good news as investigators discover the mental health of adults improves with aging.

Scientists from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine found the psychological health of adults seems to consistently get better over time. Paradoxically, researchers discovered high levels of stress among young adults.

The improved sense of psychological well-being for aging adults was linear and substantial, said senior author Dilip Jeste, M.D.. “Participants reported that they felt better about themselves and their lives year upon year, decade after decade.”

The findings appear in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Conversely, Jeste and colleagues noted high levels of perceived stress and symptoms of depression and anxiety among adults in their 20s and 30s participating in the study. “This ‘fountain of youth’ period is associated with far worse levels of psychological well-being than any other period of adulthood,” he said.

The findings may help to reframe the aging process. Conventional notions of aging have largely described it as an ongoing progression of physical and cognitive decline, with little discussion about mental health except in the context of decline.

It has been broadly assumed that the mental health of older people mirrors their worsening physical and cognitive function.

But Jeste, who has long studied the phenomenon, said actual research, though limited, produces mixed findings.

“Some investigators have reported a U-shaped curve of well-being across the lifespan, with declines from early adulthood to middle age followed by an improvement in later adulthood.

The nadir of mental health in this model occurs during middle age, roughly 45 to 55. However, we did not find such a mid-life dip in well-being.”

The reasons for these differences in results aren’t obvious. There is measurement variation across studies, with different researchers emphasizing different indicators that, ultimately, produce different conclusions. Nonetheless, the commonality is in finding improved well-being in the second half of life.

Jeste emphasized that this study was not restricted to psychological well-being, but included “mental health”, which is broader in definition and also includes satisfaction with life, and low levels of perceived stress, anxiety, and depression.

Most epidemiologic studies report lower prevalence of all mental illnesses in older adults, except for dementias.

“Some cognitive decline over time is inevitable,” said Jeste, “but its effect is clearly not uniform and in many people, not clinically significant — at least in terms of impacting their sense of well-being and enjoyment of life.”

In the latest study, Jeste and colleagues examined the physical health, cognitive function, and other measures of mental health in 1,546 adults, ages 21 to 100 years, living in San Diego County. Participants were selected using random digit dialing and were almost evenly split by gender. The sample was stratified by age decade, with an oversampling of adults over age 75.

The linear nature of the findings was surprising, said Jeste, particularly in magnitude. The oldest cohort had mental health scores significantly better than the youngest cohort, though the former’s physical and cognitive function was measurably poorer than the latter’s.

The reasons for improved positive mental health in old age are not clear. Some previous research has shown older adults become more adept at coping with stressful changes. They learn, said Jeste, “not to sweat out the little things. And a lot of previously big things become little.”

However, another important explanation may be increased wisdom with age. A number of studies have shown that older individuals tend to be more skilled at emotional regulation and complex social decision-making.

They also experience and retain fewer negative emotions and memories. These are all collective elements of wisdom, as defined by the researchers.

Michael L. Thomas, Ph.D., first author of the paper and assistant research scientist in psychiatry at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, cautioned that “like many other investigations of this type, it was a cross-sectional study, and thus a snapshot of data.

Also, there may have been a survivor bias — i.e., less healthy adults do not survive into old age”. Yet, he also pointed out that older adults in this study were physically more disabled than younger ones — so this was not a sample of super-normal healthy adults.

Jeste expressed concern that the rates of psychological distress and mental illness in younger persons seem to be rising.

“Inadequate attention has been paid to mental health issues that continue or get exacerbated post-adolescence. We need to understand mechanisms underlying better mental health in older age in spite of more physical ailments.

“That would help develop broad-based interventions to promote mental health in all age groups, including youth.”

Source: University of California, San Diego/EurekAlert

Psychotic Experiences Linked to Cognitive Changes

Wed, 08/24/2016 - 8:30am

Recent research suggests that people who have psychotic experiences, but no diagnosis of psychotic illness, have altered cognitive functioning compared with people without psychotic experiences.

A substantial minority of the general population, around six percent, experiences subclinical psychotic experiences, report MSc student Josephine Mollon of King’s College London, UK, and colleagues in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

“Evidence suggests that subclinical psychotic experiences may lie on a continuum with clinically significant psychotic symptoms, and therefore be informative for research into the cause of psychotic illness,” they write.

Both disorders share risk factors such as low IQ, childhood maltreatment, and stressful life events, as well as similar brain scan results such as deficits in grey and white matter.

The researchers looked at neuropsychological functioning and psychotic experiences in adults, taking into account sociodemographic characteristics and age. They used information gathered from household surveys covering 1,677 people aged 16 years or older, living in two areas of London, UK. Average age was 40 years.

Participants’ psychotic experiences were measured using the Psychosis Screening Questionnaire, which is administered by an interviewer. It assesses psychotic experiences in the previous year, covering thought disorder, paranoia, strange experiences, and hallucinations. The tool also covers hypomania, a mild form of mania, marked by elation and hyperactivity, but this was not assessed as the focus was on psychosis.

Cognitive functioning was measured with a series of tests looking at verbal knowledge (using a reading test), working memory, general memory, and cognitive processing speed. From this, an overall IQ score was calculated.

One in ten of the participants had previously had psychotic experiences. This group was not significantly different from those without psychotic experiences on overall IQ or processing speed. But they scored less highly on verbal knowledge, working memory, and general memory.

Medium to large impairments in cognitive functioning were seen among participants aged 50 years and older with psychotic experiences. These differences remained once socioeconomic status, cannabis use, and common mental disorders were taken into account.

The team writes, “The profile of cognitive impairment in adults with psychotic experiences differed from that seen in adults with psychotic disorders, suggesting important differences between subclinical and clinical psychosis.”

Commenting on the study, researcher Josephine Mollon says, “Psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions, are core features of psychotic disorders. A significant minority of the general population also reports subclinical psychotic experiences.

“We used population-based survey data to characterize cognitive functioning in adults with psychotic experiences while adjusting for important sociodemographic characteristics and investigating the effect of age.”

She continues, “Those with subclinical psychotic experiences did not show an impairment in processing speed, which is severely compromised in psychotic patients, suggesting that processing speed deficits indicate vulnerability to psychosis.

“Moreover, psychotic experiences, together with cognitive deficits, may be most challenging in those aged 50 years and older. Even mild, subclinical psychotic experiences, when combined with the effects of aging, may strain cognitive reserves and lead to large, burdensome cognitive deficits.”

In conclusion, Mollon adds, “Our findings suggest a continuum of psychotic experiences and cognitive deficits in a much larger proportion of the population than that seen in clinical practice. Effective treatment of such deficits could be helpful for many individuals.”

She recommends that future research on the topic should involve long-term studies “to elucidate how psychotic experiences interact with cognitive deficits throughout the life course and to identify risk and resiliency factors.”

This study is the first to investigate the effect of age on cognitive impairment associated with psychotic experiences in adults. Some previous studies suggest that these experiences are most prevalent in adolescence and old age, while others have not found significant age differences. Among the participants in this study, psychotic experiences were more likely in the youngest group but remained sizable in the other age groups.

Because the data in this study came from household surveys, the researchers could look for possible mechanisms behind the links they found with psychotic experiences and cognition.

They say, “First-degree relatives were significantly impaired on verbal knowledge, whereas unrelated cohabitants showed no impairment. Our findings suggest that a complex interplay of genetic, biological, and psychosocial factors lies behind the association between psychotic experiences and neuropsychological impairment.

“This pattern of verbal knowledge impairment suggests common genetic and/or family environmental factors.”


Mollon, J. et al. Psychotic Experiences and Neuropsychological Functioning in a Population-based Sample. JAMA Psychiatry, 30 December 2015 doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.2551

Mice Study Shows How Sleep Deprivation Harms Memory

Wed, 08/24/2016 - 7:45am

Findings from an international research effort are helping scientists understand the way in which sleep deprivation negatively affects memory.

Researchers from the Universities of Groningen (Netherlands) and Pennsylvania found that in mice, five hours of sleep deprivation leads to a loss of connectivity between neurons in the hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with learning and memory.

The study, to be published in the journal eLife, is the first to provide detail on why memory is harmed when sleep deprived.

“It’s clear that sleep plays an important role in memory — we know that taking naps helps us retain important memories. But how sleep deprivation impairs hippocampal function and memory is less obvious,” says first author Robbert Havekes, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences.

It has been proposed that changes in the connectivity between synapses — structures that allow neurons to pass signals to each other — can affect memory.

To study this further, the researchers examined the impact of brief periods of sleep loss on the structure of dendrites, the branching extensions of nerve cells along which impulses are received from other synaptic cells, in the mouse brain.

They first used the Golgi silver-staining method to visualize the length of dendrites and number of dendritic spines in the mouse hippocampus following five hours of sleep deprivation, a period of sleep loss that is known to impair memory consolidation.

Their analyses indicated that sleep deprivation significantly reduces the length and spine density of the dendrites belonging to the neurons in the CA1 region of the hippocampus.

They repeated the sleep-loss experiment, but left the mice to sleep undisturbed for three hours afterwards. This period was chosen based on the scientists’ previous work showing that three hours is sufficient to restore deficits caused by lack of sleep.

The effects of the five-hour sleep deprivation in the mice were reversed so that their dendritic structures were similar to those observed in the mice that had slept.

The researchers then investigated what was happening during sleep deprivation at the molecular level.

“We were curious about whether the structural changes in the hippocampus might be related to increased activity of the protein cofilin, since this can cause shrinkage and loss of dendritic spines,” Havekes says.

“Our further studies revealed that the molecular mechanisms underlying the negative effects of sleep loss do in fact target cofilin.

“Blocking this protein in hippocampal neurons of sleep-deprived mice not only prevented the loss of neuronal connectivity, but also made the memory processes resilient to sleep loss. The sleep-deprived mice learned as well as non-sleep deprived subjects.”

Ted Abel, Ph.D., Brush Family Professor of Biology at the University of Pennsylvania and senior author of the study, explains: “Lack of sleep is a common problem in our 24/7 modern society and it has severe consequences for health, overall wellbeing, and brain function.

“Despite decades of research, the reasons why sleep loss negatively impacts brain function have remained unknown. Our novel description of a pathway through which sleep deprivation impacts memory consolidation highlights the importance of the neuronal cell network’s ability to adapt to sleep loss.

“What is perhaps most striking is that these neuronal connections are restored with several hours of recovery sleep. Thus, when subjects have a chance to catch up on much-needed sleep, they are rapidly remodeling their brain.”

Source: Elife/EurekAlert

Banned Chemicals Continue to Increase Risk of Autism

Wed, 08/24/2016 - 7:00am

Chemicals banned decades ago continue to increase the risk of autism. In a new study, investigators discovered exposure during pregnancy to chemicals used in certain pesticides and as insulating material banned in the 1970s, can significantly increase the odds of autism spectrum disorder in children.

Researchers discovered children born after being exposed to the highest levels of certain compounds of the chemicals during their mother’s pregnancy were roughly 80 percent more likely to be diagnosed with autism when compared to individuals with the very lowest levels of these chemicals. That also includes those who were completely unexposed.

The dangerous substances — known as organochlorine chemicals — were banned in the United States in 1977. However, these compounds can remain in the environment and become absorbed in the fat of animals that humans eat, leading to exposure.

With that in mind, Kristen Lyall, ScD, assistant professor in Drexel University’s A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, and her collaborators, decided to look at organochlorine chemicals during pregnancy since they can cross through the placenta and affect the fetus’ neurodevelopment.

“There’s a fair amount of research examining exposure to these chemicals during pregnancy in association with other outcomes, like birth weight — but little research on autism, specifically,” Lyall said.

“To examine the role of environmental exposures in risk of autism, it is important that samples are collected during time frames with evidence for susceptibility for autism — termed ‘critical windows’ in neurodevelopment. Fetal development is one of those critical windows.”

Their paper describing this study was titled, “Prenatal Organochlorine Chemicals and Autism,” and published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Lyall teamed with researchers including Gayle Windham, Ph.D., Martin Kharrazi, Ph.D., Lisa Croen, Ph.D., as well as an expert on measuring organochlorine chemicals, Andreas Sjodin, Ph.D..

The team looked at a population sample of 1,144 children born in Southern California between 2000 and 2003. Data was accrued from mothers who had enrolled in California’s Expanded Alphafetoprotein Prenatal Screening Program, which is dedicated to detecting birth defects during pregnancy.

Participants’ children were separated into three groups: 545 who were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, 181 with intellectual disabilities but no autism diagnosis, and 418 with a diagnosis of neither.

Blood tests taken from the second trimester of the children’s mothers were used to determine the level of exposure to two different classes of organochlorine chemicals: Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs, which were used as lubricants, coolants and insulators in consumer and electrical products) and organochlorine pesticides (OCPs, which include chemicals like DDT).

“Exposure to PCBs and OCPs is ubiquitous,” Lyall said. “Work from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which includes pregnant women, shows that people in the U.S. generally still have measurable levels of these chemicals in their bodies.”

However, Lyall emphasized that exposure levels were key in determining risk.

“Adverse effects are related to levels of exposure, not just presence or absence of detectable levels,” she said. “In our Southern California study population, we found evidence for modestly increased risk for individuals in the highest 25th percentile of exposure to some of these chemicals.”

It was determined that two compounds in particular — PCB 138/158 and PCB 153 — stood out as being significantly linked with autism risk.

Children with the highest in utero levels (exposure during their mother’s pregnancy) of these two forms of PCBs were between 79 and 82 percent more likely to have an autism diagnosis than those found to be exposed to the lowest levels.

High levels of two other compounds, PCB 170 and PCB 180, were also associated with children being approximately 50 percent more likely to be diagnosed — again, this is relative to children with the lowest prenatal exposure to these PCBs.

None of the OCPs appeared to show an association with higher autism diagnosis risk.

In children with intellectual disabilities but not autism, the highest exposure to PCBs appeared to double the risk of a diagnosis when compared to those with the lowest exposure. Mid-range (rather than high) OCP exposure was also associated with an increased level of intellectual disability diagnosis when measured against children with the lowest exposure levels.

“The results suggest that prenatal exposure to these chemicals above a certain level may influence neurodevelopment in adverse ways,” Lyall said.

These results are a first step to suggest these compounds may increase risk of development of autism, and Lyall and her colleagues are eyeing up more work in the field.

“We are definitely doing more research to build on this — including work examining genetics, as well as mixtures of chemicals,” Lyall said. “This investigation draws from a rich dataset and we need more studies like this in autism research.”

Source: Drexel University

App Improves Health Behaviors for People Living with HIV

Wed, 08/24/2016 - 6:15am

A smartphone app has been found to help people with HIV take their daily medications and reduce substance abuse.

University of Buffalo researchers found that participants not only found the app easy and convenient to use — they were also willing to provide honest responses.

“Reporting was actually high — we had 95 percent compliance with daily report completion. A key finding of our study was the ability for people living with HIV to feel comfortable reporting on sensitive health behaviors,” said Sarahmona Przybyla, the study’s lead author.

A willingness to report the use of alcohol or drugs was significant because substance use is one of the most reliable predictors of poor adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART), explain the researchers.

Their findings were more surprising considering that the majority of the 26 study participants had never used a smartphone before. After some initial smartphone training from research staff, they completed their reports with ease.

The study appears in the journal AIDS Research and Treatment.

Participants were recruited from two Buffalo-area clinics and were asked to use the app — named Daily Reports of Using Medications, or DRUM — to complete their reports, which took three to five minutes, between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. each day for two weeks.

Every afternoon, the 26 study participants received a text message reminder asking them to fill out their report. If they missed that day’s report, they were given the option to do a make-up when they logged into the app the next day.

Researchers were deliberate in their wording of the questions. “People living with HIV continue to be a stigmatized population, so we didn’t want any of the questions we developed to draw attention to their disease. We never used ‘HIV’ or ‘ART’ — anything that would inadvertently out someone as having HIV,” Przybyla said.

A sample medication question was, “Did you take your first dose?” A change in daily routine was the most commonly reported reason participants didn’t take their medication, followed by simply forgetting. Use of alcohol or drugs was the third most common reason.

Participants who confirmed they had used alcohol or drugs in the past 24 hours were given a series of follow-up questions that asked why they used the substance and where they were when they used it, with a dropdown menu of answer choices.

Each participant was provided with a five-digit passcode to access the app, ensuring privacy and confidentiality. Data from the completed reports was sent in real time directly to University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions, which helped develop the app along with Przybyla.

In the future, the app could aid in users’ decision to use alcohol since some participants in this study reported that it helped them understand exactly how much they were drinking.

And it helped users establish a pattern. “I think the surprising thing is how much the app and the text reminders helped the participants to develop a routine,” said Rebecca Eliseo-Arras, a study co-author and senior research analyst at UB’s Research Institute on Addictions.

“For instance, some reported that the text message reminded them to do the report, but the report actually made them think about whether or not they took their medication and, if they didn’t, that it prompted them to go take their medications.”

Participants completed 347 out of 364 possible daily reports over the two-week span. They reported drinking alcohol on 51.6 percent and marijuana use on 35.4 percent of reporting days.

In follow-up interviews after the two weeks, researchers asked study members about their experience using the app. “Many said it was a piece of cake and that they actually looked forward to doing their daily reports,” Przybyla said.

“We also asked people where they were when they completed their reports. A lot of them said they were out and about. They never felt like they had to go hide in a bathroom to fill out the survey each day.”

Przybyla said it’s important to note that the average time since diagnosis among study participants was 17 years and that many of their friends and relatives were likely aware they had HIV. As a result, participants probably felt more comfortable completing the reports around others than someone who was more recently diagnosed and may not have been open about disclosing their disease status to others.

Three-quarters of the sample was male, and slightly more than half were African American. The average age was 48.

Investigators believe the app could help lead to quicker intervention in cases where a patient has missed a number of doses. “Life expectancy has changed dramatically as a result of advances in pharmacotherapy, which is wonderful, but adherence is key. You can live a long, healthy life with HIV, but you have to take your meds,” said Przybyla.

“Now that we have this data, we can reach out to people with HIV and say, ‘We’ve noticed you’ve been using substances and that seems to be related to the fact that you’ve missed your doses — what can we do to help you?’ It’s putting prevention in their pockets.”

Source: University of Buffalo

Music at Work Enhances Teambuilding

Wed, 08/24/2016 - 5:30am

From retail shops to health care complexes, music is used to improve the customer experience and mold behavior. New research reviews the effects of music for enhancing the worksite environment for employees.

In the study, Cornell University investigators used a pair of lab experiments to learn that music can play an important role in enhancing cooperative spirit.

Researchers Kevin Kniffin, Jubo Yan, Brian Wansink, and William Schulze devised the experiments to test the effect of different types of music on the cooperative behavior of individuals working as a team.

The summary paper appears in the Journal of Organizational Behavior.

For each study, participants were grouped into teams of three. Each team member was given multiple opportunities to either contribute to the team’s value using tokens or keep the tokens for personal use.

When happy, upbeat music was played — researchers chose the “Happy Days” theme song, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles, and “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves — team members were more likely to contribute to the group’s value.

When music deemed unpleasant was played — in this case, heavy metal songs by less than well-known bands — participants were more likely to keep tokens for themselves.

The researchers found contribution levels to the public good when happy, upbeat songs were played were approximately one-third higher compared to the less pleasant music.

When researchers conducted a second experiment testing how people react when no music is played, the results were the same. The researchers conclude that happy music provokes people to more often make decisions that contribute to the good of the team.

“Music is a pervasive part of much of our daily lives, whether we consciously notice it or not,” said Kniffin, a behavioral scientist at Cornell and lead author on the paper.

“Music might melt into the background in places like supermarkets or gyms and other times it’s very prominent like places of worship or presidential nominating conventions. Our results show that people seem more likely to get into sync with each other if they’re listening to music that has a steady beat to it.”

Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, added, “What’s great about these findings, other than having a scientific reason to blast tunes at work, is that happy music has the power to make the workplace more cooperative and supportive overall.”

The researchers suggest managers consider not only the customer experience but also workers’ when picking the day’s music.

Starting the day with this simple consideration in mind could result in happier employees and more teamwork.

“Lots of employers spend significant sums of time and money on off-site team-building exercises to build cooperation among employees. Our research points to the office sound system as a channel that has been under appreciated as a way to inspire cooperation among co-workers,” said Kniffin.

Source: Cornell University