Recent News Items

Meaningful Activities Protect the Brain From Depression, by Olga Khazan. The Atlantic, April 21, 2014.  “How we seek and respond to those rewards is part of what determines our overall happiness. Aristotle famously said there were two basic types of joy: hedonia, or that keg-standing, Netflix binge-watching, Nutella-from-the-jar selfish kind of pleasure, and eudaimonia, or the pleasure that comes from helping others, doing meaningful work, and otherwise leading a life well-lived. Recent psychological research has suggested that this second category is more likely to produce a lasting increase in happiness. Hedonic rewards may generate a short-term burst of glee, but it dissipates more quickly than the surge created by the more selfless eudaimonic rewards.”

Study finds brain changes in young marijuana users, by Kay Lazar. Boston Globe, April 15, 2014.  “Young adults who occasionally smoke marijuana show abnormalities in two key areas of their brain related to emotion, motivation, and decision making, raising concerns that they could be damaging their developing minds at a critical time, according to a new study by Boston researchers. Other studies have revealed brain changes among heavy marijuana users, but this research is believed to be the first to demonstrate such abnormalities in young, casual smokers.”

Depression risks increase for young dads, by Michelle Healy. USA Today, April 14, 2014.  “Becoming a dad can be emotionally tough for any guy, but especially for young, first-time fathers. A new study finds that the first five years of parenthood — key attachment and bonding years for a child — may be the riskiest for young dads when it comes to developing depression. Symptoms of depression increased on average by 68% over the first five years of fatherhood for men who were around 25 years old when they became fathers and lived with their children, according to the study published online today in the journal Pediatrics.”

Autism rates now 1 in 68 U.S. children: CDC, by Miriam Falco. CNN, March 28, 2014.  “One in 68 U.S. children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a 30% increase from 1 in 88 two years ago, according to a new report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This newest estimate is based on the CDC's evaluation of health and educational records of all 8-year-old children in 11 states: Alabama, Wisconsin, Colorado, Missouri, Georgia, Arkansas, Arizona, Maryland, North Carolina, Utah and New Jersey.”

Phone app keeps recovering alcoholics from falling off the wagon, by Deborah Kotz. March 27, 2014.  “Recovering alcoholics who used an experimental smart phone app had a far easier time avoiding alcohol for up to a year after they left rehab compared to those who didn’t use the app. That’s based on a new trial involving nearly 350 recovering alcoholics, which found that those randomly assigned to use the app had an average of 1.4 binge drinking days per month — consuming three or four alcoholic beverages in two hours — compared to 2.8 days for those who didn’t get the app. The users of the app, called A-CHESS, were also 22 percent more likely to maintain their abstinence from alcohol, according to the study published on Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.”

First stem cell study of bipolar disorder yields promising results, U-M and Prechter Fund scientists say, by Haiming Chen and Cindy DeLong. Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Fund, March 25, 2014.  “What makes a person bipolar, prone to manic highs and deep, depressed lows? Why does bipolar disorder run so strongly in families, even though no single gene is to blame? And why is it so hard to find new treatments for a condition that affects 200 million people worldwide? New stem cell research published by scientists from the University of Michigan Medical School, and fueled by the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Fund, may help scientists find answers to these questions.”

Orphans' Lonely Beginnings Reveal How Parents Shape A Child's Brain, by Jon Hamilton. NPR, February 24, 2014.  “Parents do a lot more than make sure a child has food and shelter, researchers say. They play a critical role in brain development. More than a decade of research on children raised in institutions shows that "neglect is awful for the brain," says Charles Nelson, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital. Without someone who is a reliable source of attention, affection and stimulation, he says, "the wiring of the brain goes awry." The result can be long-term mental and emotional problems.”

Higher risks among perinatal women with bipolar disorder, by Brown University. ScienceDaily, February 24, 2014.  “Women with bipolar disorder often struggle with the illness during and after pregnancy. A new study finds that they were significantly more likely to face important psychiatric and childrearing challenges compared to women who were seeking treatment for other psychiatric disorders. The findings indicate the importance of properly identifying the disorder and developing specific treatments for women during and after pregnancy, the lead author states.”

Test 'predicts' teen depression risk, by James Gallagher. BBC, February 17, 2014.  “A tool for predicting the risk of clinical depression in teenage boys has been developed by researchers. Looking for high levels of the stress hormone cortisol and reports of feeling miserable, lonely or unloved could find those at greatest risk.”

One snapshot in a tragic national picture: Long Island sees exploding heroin use, by Ronnie Berke and Poppy Harlow. CNN, February 09, 2014.  “Heroin use has exploded in what is being described as an epidemic on New York's Long Island, where addiction counselors are seeing users as young as 12 -- many from middle-class, suburban families. Several factors have contributed to this "perfect storm" of addiction according to experts -- among them, proximity to major airports and transportation centers, and a statewide crackdown on prescription painkillers, that has had the unintended effect of pushing more kids to cheaper and more accessible heroin.”

Less Sleep, More Time Online Raise Risk For Teen Depression, by Maanvi Singh. NPR, February 06, 2014.  “The teenage years are a tumultuous time, with about 11 percent developing depression by age 18. Lack of sleep may increase teenagers' risk of depression, two studies say. Teenagers who don't get enough sleep are four times as likely to develop as their peers who sleep more, according to researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.”

The power of prejudice -- and why you should speak up, by Amanda Enayati. CNN, February 06, 2014.  “Indeed, admits Rattan, "people talk about all the ways that the Internet's anonymity can lead to more prejudice being expressed online." But a series of studies Rattan undertook with her colleague, the late Nalini Ambady of Stanford University, showed that social media also have the potential to serve as the exact opposite.”

Schizophrenia: Talking therapies moderately effective, by James Gallagher. BBC, February 05, 2014.  “Cognitive behavioral therapy is an officially recommended treatment, but is available to less than 10% of patients in the UK with schizophrenia. A study published in the Lancet indicates CBT could help the many who refuse antipsychotic medication. Experts say larger trials are needed.”

In Texting Era, Crisis Hotlines Put Help at Youths’ Fingertips, by Leslie Kaufman. New York Times, February 04, 2014.  “While counseling by phone remains far more prevalent, texting has become such a fundamental way to communicate, particularly among people under 20, that crisis groups have begun to adopt it as an alternative way of providing emergency services and counseling. Texting provides privacy that can be crucial if a person feels threatened by someone near them, counselors say. It also looks more natural if the teenager is in public.”

Kids With Peanut Allergies Get Some Relief, Study Finds The Wall St. Journal, January 30, 2014.  “Peanut allergy, which affects 0.5% to 1.4% of children in high-income countries, is the most common cause of severe and fatal allergic reactions related to food. The only way around the problem is to avoid eating foods containing peanuts. Even then, many people suffer accidental reactions. The treatment reported in Lancet is known as immunotherapy, which has a lasting protective effect when used against grass pollen and wasp-sting allergies.”

Two stressed people equals less stress: Sharing nervous feelings helps reduce stress ScienceDaily, January 29, 2014.  “Does giving a speech in public stress you out? Or writing a big presentation for your boss? What about skydiving? One way to cope, according to a new study, is to share your feelings with someone who is having a similar emotional reaction to the same scenario.”

Taking notice of the hidden injury, by Nicole Noren. ESPN, January 26, 2014.  “According to the most recent data compiled by the NCAA, suicide was the third-leading cause of death of student-athletes from 2004-08, after accidents and cardiac causes.”

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