Total 43 News Articles

  • 30 Dec
    eWellness Expert

    Children less likely to trust ugly people

    child behaviour

    Posted on June 13, 2016

    A new study shows that children judge us on our looks – and beauty wins out on trustworthiness ratings

    by Abigail Pattenden, Frontiersin.org

    Is beauty only skin deep? Children don’t seem to think so, like adults and babies, children think the uglier you are, the less trustworthy you are.

    In a study recently published in Frontiers in Psychology, researchers have found that as children, how we perceive someone’s trustworthiness is linked to how attractive we find them. Our ability to make this trustworthiness judgement develops as we grow, becoming more consistent as we approach adulthood, and, girls are better at it than boys.

    Many psychology studies have proven the existence of the so-called “beauty stereotype”. This describes the phenomenon whereby more attractive people are also considered to be smarter, more sociable and more successful. To be attractive is to be treated better by your peers, and preferred by new-born babies, than uglier people.

    People use facial cues to make judgements on a person’s character – and this ability to infer social traits is a crucial part of social functioning and development. Although well researched in babies and adults, the development of this ability in children was not previously known.

    Understanding this process paints a more complete picture of this development from birth through to adulthood. It also adds to a growing body of work showing that attractiveness is a universal language when it comes to that all-important first impression.

    Dr Fengling Ma and Dr Fe Xu of Zhejiang Sci-Tech University, and Dr Xiaming Lu of Wenzhou Medical University, China, assessed 138 participants – groups of children aged eight, ten and 12 years old, and compared them to a group of adults.

    They used a face generation program (FaceGen) to produce 200 images of male faces – all with a neutral expression and direct gaze. In the first of two sessions, each participant was shown each face, and asked to rate how trustworthy they thought that person was.  A second session followed a month later where participants repeated the exercise, this time rating the attractiveness of the same faces.

    The study analysed the responses of the children and adult control groups. The researchers looked firstly at the ratings of trustworthiness, and level of agreement of the ratings within and between the groups. Did the children within the same age groups agree on how trustworthy each of the faces was?

    Did the responses of the different age groups agree with each other, and with the adult group? They found that the level of agreement within and between the age groups and the adult group increased with age. From this they were able to infer that the children’s ability to judge trustworthiness therefore also increased with age.

    Next, the researchers looked at the ratings of trustworthiness and attractiveness given to each face. They found a strong, direct relationship between the two traits – the faces deemed more trustworthy were also considered to be more attractive. This relationship also strengthened with age, and reveals that, like adults, children also look to a person’s attractiveness as an indication of their character.

    So, it appears that judging a book by its cover, however incorrectly, is something we are born to do.

     

     

  • 30 Dec
    eWellness Expert

    Workaholism tied to psychiatric disorders

    workholic

    HARD KNOCK LIFE: Workaholics tend to have more psychiatric disorders than others.Photo:Colourbox

    Published: 24.05.2016

    Researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway have examined the associations between workaholism and psychiatric disorders among 16,426 working adults.

    “Workaholics scored higher on all the psychiatric symptoms than non-workaholics,” says researcher and Clinical Psychologist Specialist Cecilie Schou Andreassen, at theDepartment of Psychosocial Science, at the University of Bergen (UiB), and visiting scholar at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.

    Workaholics score higher on all clinical states

    The study showed that workaholics scored higher on all the psychiatric symptoms than non-workaholics. Among workaholics, the main findings were that:

    • 32.7 per cent met ADHD criteria (12.7 per cent among non-workaholics).
    • 25.6 per cent OCD criteria (8.7 per cent among non-workaholics).
    • 33.8 per cent met anxiety criteria (11.9 per cent among non-workaholics).
    • 8.9 per cent met depression criteria (2.6 per cent among non-workaholics).

    “Thus, taking work to the extreme may be a sign of deeper psychological or emotional issues. Whether this reflects overlapping genetic vulnerabilities, disorders leading to workaholism or, conversely, workaholism causing such disorders, remain uncertain,” says Schou Andreassen.

    The pioneering study, published in the open-access journal PLOS One, is co-authored by researchers from Nottingham Trent University and Yale University.

    Affects identification of disorders

    According to Schou Andreassen, the findings clearly highlight the importance of further investigating neurobiological deviations related to workaholic behaviour.

    “In wait for more research, physicians should not take for granted that a seemingly successful workaholic does not have ADHD-related or other clinical features. Their considerations affect both the identification and treatment of these disorders,” says Schou Andreassen.

    Seven diagnostic criteria for workaholism

    The researchers used seven valid criteria when drawing the line between addictive and non-addictive behaviour.

    Experiences occurring over the past year are rated from 1 (never) to 5 (always):

    • You think of how you can free up more time to work.
    • You spend much more time working than initially intended.
    • You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness or depression.
    • You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.
    • You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.
    • You deprioritize hobbies, leisure activities, and/or exercise because of your work.
    • You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.

    Scoring 4 (often) or 5 (always) on four or more criteria identify a workaholic.

    Accordingly, the Bergen Work Addiction Scale operationalizes workaholism by the same symptoms as traditional addictions: salience, mood modification, conflict, tolerance, withdrawal, relapse and problems.

    In line with previous research, 7.8 per cent of the current sample classified as workaholics, which is close to an estimate (8.3 per cent) found in a (and, to date, only) nationally representative study conducted by Dr. Andreassen and colleagues in 2014.

  • 30 Dec
    eWellness Expert

    Support from family and friends important to help prevent depression in teenagers

    depressed teenager

    The importance of friendships and family support in helping prevent depression among teenagers has been highlighted in research from the University of Cambridge. The study, published in the open access journal PLOS ONE, also found that teenagers who had grown up in a difficult family environment were more likely than their peers to be bullied at school.

     

    Teenage years can be difficult for everyone, but we found that this is particularly the case for those teens who have had a difficult family environment

    Anne-Laura van Harmelen

    Adolescence is a key time in an individual’s development, and is a period where some teenagers begin to show signs of major depression. One of the major risk factors for depression in adolescence is childhood family adversity, such as poor parenting and lack of affection, emotional, physical or sexual abuse, family financial problems or the loss of a family member. Another major risk factor for depression is bullying by peers – and the combined experience of childhood family adversity and peer bullying is associated with increased severity of depression symptoms.

    Studies suggest that friendships and supportive family environments may help protect adolescents from depression if they have experienced peer bullying and childhood family adversity. However, no study has simultaneously examined the complex interplay of early life adversity, bullying, family support and friendships on later adolescent depression.

    Researchers at the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge studied almost 800 teenagers (322 boys and 449 girls), and used mathematical modelling to examine the impact of friendships and family support at age 14 on depressive symptoms at age 17 in adolescents who had previously experienced childhood family adversity and primary school bullying.

    “Teenage years can be difficult for everyone, but we found that this is particularly the case for those teens who have had a difficult family environment,” explains Dr Anne-Laura van Harmelen, the study’s first author. “Adolescents who had experienced negative family environments are more likely to be bullied at school, and less likely to receive family support in adolescence. We also found that children who were bullied in primary school were less likely to have supportive friendships in adolescence.

    “In fact, we found a strong relationship between having a negative family environment and being bullied at primary school. This puts teens at a double disadvantage and means they are more likely to experience more severe symptoms of depression in their late teens.”

    Boys who had been bullied were less likely than girls to develop strong friendships in adolescence, which the researchers suggest may be because boys experienced more severe bullying or were more sensitive to bullying.

    Crucially, the researchers also found that supportive family or friends in early adolescence could help reduce depressive symptoms in later teenage years. It is not clear from the results how social support influences later life mental health. However, the researchers suggest several possibilities, including that supportive friends and family environments may help enhance children’s ability to cope with adverse situations by improving their self-esteem and offering stress-relief and through helping them develop effective interpersonal skills.

    “Our work really shows how important it is that children and teenagers have strong support from their family and friends, particularly if their childhood has been a difficult one,” adds Professor Ian Goodyer, senior author. “It also suggests a role for interventions such as helping parents in at-risk families develop their parenting and support skills or helping bullied teens build their confidence and social skills to help find and maintain friendships.”

    The research was funded primarily by the Wellcome Trust and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.

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  • 30 Dec
    eWellness Expert

    why individuals take drugs even when they are aware of the negative consequences

    ranbir addiction

    People who are addicted to cocaine are particularly prone to developing habits that render their behaviour resistant to change, regardless of the potentially devastating consequences, suggests new research from the University of Cambridge. The findings may have important implications for the treatment of cocaine addiction as they help explain why such individuals take drugs even when they are aware of the negative consequences, and why they find their behaviour so difficult to change.

     

    “Addiction does not happen overnight but develops from behaviour that has been repeated over and over again until individuals lose control,” said Dr Karen Ersche from the Department of Psychiatry, who led the research.

    In a study reported today in the journal Science, Dr Ersche and colleagues tested 125 participants, of whom 72 were addicted to cocaine and 53 had no history of drug addiction, on their inclination to develop habits. They found that people with cocaine addiction were much more likely than healthy participants to make responses in an automatic fashion, but only if they had previously been rewarded for responding in the same way. The addicted individuals simply continued repeating the same responses they had previously learned, regardless of whether their actions made sense or not.

    In a different context, however, where participants had to perform an action to avoid electrical shocks, people with cocaine addiction did not develop habits. In fact, they were much less inclined than the control participants to make an effort to avoid the electric shock in the first place.

    “Our experiments highlight the particular difficulties faced when it comes to changing behaviour in people with cocaine addiction: they are highly responsive if their behaviour is rewarded – for example a ‘high’ from drug use – but then quickly switch to autopilot, becoming unable to change that behaviour in light of different consequences,” said Dr Ersche. “By contrast, when cocaine users are facing adversity, they are less inclined than healthy people to do something about it.

    “These findings have significant implications for the treatment of people with cocaine addiction. Clearly punitive approaches are ineffective, as the prospect of something bad happening to them won’t make cocaine users more likely to change their behaviour. Interventions that build on their particular strength in developing habits, by training the implementation of more desirable habits to replace drug-taking habits, are likely to be more effective. Our findings also suggest that cocaine users would need to be actively protected from – rather than simply warned about – adverse consequences, because they will likely fail to avoid them if left to their own devices.”

    There is currently no medical treatment for cocaine addiction – most individuals are treated with talking or cognitive therapy. According to Dr Ersche, the results show that a different approach to treating cocaine addiction might be of enhanced benefit to cocaine users. The researchers are now aiming to better understand the brain systems underlying cocaine users’ proneness to habits and their lack of avoidance, and to use this knowledge to develop more effective treatments for cocaine addiction.

    In the first experiment conducted by Ersche and her colleagues, participants were asked to learn the relationship between pictures, and a correct response was rewarded with points. After a long training period, participants were informed that some pictures were no longer worth any points. Participants with cocaine addiction were less likely to take on board the information about the change in reward, and were also more likely to continue responding in an automatic way, regardless of whether they were rewarded or not.

    In a second experiment, the same participants were shown two different pictures on a screen, which they learned to associate with receiving an electric shock. Participants were then taught a strategy on how they could avoid the shocks by pressing a foot pedal. Those participants with cocaine addiction were less good at avoiding the electric shocks in the first place, possibly due to learning and/or motivational impairment, and subsequently did not develop avoidance habits.

    The work was funded by the Medical Research Council and was conducted at the NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre and the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute.

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  • 30 Dec
    eWellness Expert

    Antidepressive treatment during pregnancy can affect newborn brain activity

    newborn babyAccording a new study, fetal exposure to commonly used SRI drugs may affect brain activity in newborns. The researchers suggest that the effects of drugs on fetal brain function should be assessed more carefully, Indications for preventive medication should be critically evaluated, and non-pharmacological interventions should be the first-line treatment for depression and anxiety during pregnancy.

    "We found many changes in the brain activity of SRI-exposed newborns," says Professor Sampsa Vanhatalo, head of the BABA center at the Helsinki University Children's Hospital. "Since the changes did not correlate with the mother's psychiatric symptoms, we have assumed that they resulted as a side effect of maternal drug treatment."

    Depression and anxiety are commonly treated with SRI drugs that affect brain serotonin metabolism. These drugs are well tolerated and considered safe to use during pregnancy, because they are not seen to cause major malformations. It is estimated that up to 5% of all pregnant women use SRI medication.

    However, several animal studies have shown that early SRI exposure may result in microscopic changes in fetal brain structure, as well as altered neuronal signaling. The already known side effect of this on human newborns is the transient 'SRI syndrome,' including such symptoms as respiratory problems during the first days of life. In addition, a recent Finnish long-term follow-up study conducted at the Universities of Helsinki and Turku showed that fetal exposure to SRI drugs increases the risk of childhood depression.

    The present study in Helsinki is the first to examine the effects of SRI exposure directly on the brain activity of newborns. The study design aimed at distinguishing drug-related developmental effects from postnatal, environmental effects, such as potential changes in the mother-baby relationship due to maternal depression. The methodology for the detailed assessment of electrical brain function in newborns has been intensively developed at the BABA center of the Helsinki University Children's Hospital. As a result of this work, it has become possible to examine newborn brain function in detail, and better translate between research on animal models and research on human infants.

    The study, involving 22 mothers using SRI medication and 62 controls without medication, aimed at assessing how fetal SRI drug exposure or maternal psychiatric symptoms affect newborns' neurological development and their brains' electrical activity.

    Structured behavioral and neurological assessments of the newborns showed only minor effects from fetal SRI exposure; however, brain electrical activity exhibited several differences between the study groups. The most important relate to less-organized communication between brain hemispheres, as well as weaker synchronization between cortical rhythms. These findings did not correlate with the scores on maternal depression or anxiety.

    "The most interesting aspect in our observations is that comparable effects were recently found in animal experiments after fetal SRI exposure," says principal investigator Dr. Mari Videman, senior consultant in child neurology. "This suggests that the early SRI effects on brain development may be comparable in humans and other species."

    The study's psychiatric consultant, Adjunct Professor Outi Mantere from McGill University, Canada, emphasizes that pregnant mothers need treatment when they present with symptoms of depression or anxiety.

    "The current guidelines do include non-pharmacological therapies as the first-line treatment," says Mantere. "If the mother using an SRI plans a pregnancy, it would be advisable to consider a close follow-up or a therapeutic intervention without SRI medication. Recent experience with group therapy has shown promise in treating depression or anxiety during pregnancy, with effects that extend to the wellbeing of both mother and baby."

    "We hope that our study will facilitate the current international discussion and search for effective alternatives in the treatment of depression and anxiety during pregnancy," adds Professor Vanhatalo.

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    The study was conducted mostly at the BABA center of the University of Helsinki Children's Hospital. The research group included experts in clinical neurophysiology, child neurology, psychiatry, and psychology from the hospital's Department of Psychiatry, as well as HUS Medical Imaging.

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