Love and money: How low-income dads really provide

first_imgLinkedIn Pinterest “The most disadvantaged dads end up looking like they’re completely distanced from their kids but they’re actually giving quite a lot,” said co-author Kathryn Edin, a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of sociology. “I was really surprised by how much these disadvantaged guys, these truly marginally employed men, are putting all of this thought and what little resources they have into showing their children that they care.”Edin, along with Timothy J. Nelson, a Johns Hopkins sociologist, and Jennifer B. Kane, a postdoctoral scholar at the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina, studied 367 lower-income noncustodial fathers in three cities: Philadelphia, Austin, Texas; and Charleston, South Carolina.Nearly half of the fathers, 46 percent, contributed in-kind support to a child, while 23 percent of them gave formal support (through the court system), and 28 percent gave informal support (cash straight to the mother).Fathers providing in-kind support gave each child items worth about $60 a month — more per month, per child, than they spent on formal ($53) or informal ($40) support.In-kind support included items like baby products (diapers, formula, strollers and cribs), clothing, shoes, school expenses, school supplies, after-school program costs, gifts and food.Some fathers, 66 in the study with 95 children, avoided cash payments altogether — dads who would traditionally be considered “deadbeat.” They gave $63 per child a month through in-kind support — support that is currently unacknowledged in any government surveys or statistics.Other notable findings:Fathers who did not visit their kids gave each child goods worth about $48 a month while dads that spent at least 10 hours a month with their children gave them twice as much in-kind support — $84. Each additional hour of visitation was associated with an increase of nearly $1 of in-kind support per month.Fathers who were romantically involved with the mother offered 52 percent of their support through in-kind provisions, while dads not involved with the mother gave 36 percent in-kind.The value of in-kind support varied by the child’s age with younger children getting the most in-kind support — an average of $78 for children under 5 — compared with $41 for children 10 and up.The total value of in-kind support did not vary by race but the proportion of total support offered in-kind was higher among black fathers, 44 percent, than non-black fathers, 35 percent.The researchers also learned what motivates men to give their children these tangible items rather than handing cash over to their mothers. Fathers see the gifts as a chance to bond with their children, they found.“What we learned is that these dads are purchasing a relationship with their children,” Edin said. “They want their kids to look down at their feet and say, ‘My dad cares about me because he bought me these shoes.’ ”The dads are trying to link love with money, she said.“We need to respect what these guys are doing, linking love and provision in a way that’s meaningful to the child,” Edin said. “The child support system weakens the child/father bond by separating the act of love from the act of providing. Share on Twitter Emailcenter_img Share Low-income fathers who might be labeled “deadbeat dads” often spend as much on their children as parents in formal child-support arrangements, but they choose to give goods like food and clothing rather than cash, a Johns Hopkins-led study found.In the first examination of the magnitude of in-kind child support, published this month in the Journal of Marriage and Family, the team found many disadvantaged noncustodial fathers spend an average of $60 a month on in-kind provisions, while dads paying formal child support spend about $38 a month.Men who were the most disadvantaged tended to give a higher proportion of their support in gifts, the study found. Share on Facebooklast_img read more

People living in disadvantaged cities are at greater risk of suicide

first_imgPinterest Share Email “Many people see suicide as an inherently individual act,” said Justin Denney, an assistant professor of sociology at Rice and director of the Urban Health Program, part of Rice’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research. “However, our research suggests that it is an act that can be heavily influenced by broader socio-economic and family factors.”In part one of the two-part study, the results showed that respondents living in cities with a higher percentage of family households demonstrated a lower risk of suicide than did respondents in cities where more residents lived alone or with unrelated friends.The participants surveyed were divided into four groups based on the percentage of that city’s total population living in family-like households. The researchers organized the participant information by taking all the cities in the U.S. and dividing them into quartiles based on U.S. Census information on the proportion of residents living in families; then, the survey respondents were assigned to the quartile that represented the city in which they lived.After statistically adjusting for the family-living situation of adult survey respondents, including their marital status, the researchers found that the group of individuals at greatest risk for suicide lived in cities where 25 percent of residents or fewer lived in family settings. In fact, these adults — whether they were married with children or single and living alone — were more than two times more likely to die by suicide compared with similar adults who lived in cities where 81 percent or more of the city’s population lived in family settings.The second part of the study showed that after statistical adjustments for educational attainment, household income and employment, survey respondents who lived in more socio-economically disadvantaged cities experienced a higher likelihood of death by suicide. For example, for every standard-deviation-unit increase in socio-economic disadvantage for the city of residence, the risk of suicide among adults living in the city — whether they were employed, unemployed or even retired — increased by 7 percent.“Thankfully, suicide is a relatively rare cause of death.” Denney said. “But finding that the characteristics of the places we live can influence how long we live and how we die is an important consideration in addressing health disparities in the U.S.”The research was conducted with data from the National Institutes of Health’s National Health Interview Survey, which includes health data of more than a million adults living in the U.S. between 1986 and 2003. The study focused exclusively on population areas with more than 50,000 residents.Denney said the research is consistent with previous statements that high rates of family households contribute to the stability and unity of communities, which in turn decreases problematic behavior. He said the findings support the claim that community-level disadvantage may have broad impacts on the mental and emotional well-being of residents. He and his fellow researchers hope that their findings will help decrease the risk of suicide by encouraging more investment in both individual and area-level resources aimed at fostering social integration and connectedness and eliminating socioeconomic disadvantages. The city where an individual lives can influence the risk of dying by suicide, according to a new study from sociologists at Rice University and the University of Colorado at Boulder.“Suicide in the City: Do Characteristics of Place Really Influence Risk?” appears in the latest edition of Social Science Quarterly. The study found that adults living in cities with more socio-economic disadvantages and fewer families living together have higher odds of suicidal death than adults living in less-disadvantaged cities and cities with more families living together.The findings support classic sociological arguments that the risk of suicide is indeed influenced by the social climate and cannot simply be explained by the sum of individual characteristics, the researchers said.center_img Share on Facebook LinkedIn Share on Twitterlast_img read more

Insulin resistance increases risk for Alzheimer’s disease, study finds

first_imgThe fact that obesity increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers is well known. But a new Iowa State University study adds to the growing evidence that memory loss should also be a top concern.The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Neurology, found a strong association between insulin resistance and memory function decline, increasing the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Auriel Willette, a research scientist in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Iowa State, says insulin resistance is common in people who are obese, pre-diabetic or have Type 2 diabetes.Willette and co-author Barbara Bendlin, with the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute, examined brain scans in 150 late middle-aged adults, who were at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, but showed no sign of memory loss. The scans detected if people with higher levels of insulin resistance used less blood sugar in areas of the brain most susceptible to Alzheimer’s. When that happens, the brain has less energy to relay information and function, Willette said. Pinterest “If you don’t have as much fuel, you’re not going to be as adept at remembering something or doing something,” he said. “This is important with Alzheimer’s disease, because over the course of the disease there is a progressive decrease in the amount of blood sugar used in certain brain regions. Those regions end up using less and less.”Willette’s work focused on the medial temporal lobe, specifically the hippocampus – a critical region of the brain for learning new things and sending information to long-term memory. It is also one of the areas of the brain that first show massive atrophy or shrinkage due to Alzheimer’s disease, Willette said.Cognitive decline can have immediate impactThis is the first study to look at insulin resistance in late middle-aged people (average age was 60), identify a pattern of decreased blood sugar use related to Alzheimer’s and link that to memory decline, Willette said. Participants were recruited through the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention study, an ongoing study that examines genetic, biological and lifestyle factors that contribute to dementia.The link between insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s disease is important for prevention, but the risk is much more immediate, Willette said. Problems regulating blood sugar may impact cognitive function at any age. Testing for insulin resistance in obese patients and taking corrective action, through improved nutrition and moderate exercise, is a crucial first step, he said.“We are terrible at adjusting our behavior based on what might happen in the future,” Willette said. “That’s why people need to know that insulin resistance or related problems with metabolism can have an effect in the here and now on how they think, and it’s important to treat. For Alzheimer’s, it’s not just people with Type 2 diabetes. Even people with mild or moderate insulin resistance who don’t have Type 2 diabetes might have an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease because they’re showing many of the same sorts of brain and memory relationships.”Understanding the progression of cognitive decline will take additional research. Willette says following those who are at-risk through the different stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s will offer insight as to what happens as their cognitive function declines. Email Share on Twittercenter_img Share on Facebook LinkedIn Sharelast_img read more

Getting serious about funny: Psychologists see humor as a character strength

first_imgShare on Facebook Humor is observed in all cultures and at all ages. But only in recent decades has experimental psychology respected it as an essential, fundamental human behavior.Historically, psychologists framed humor negatively, suggesting it demonstrated superiority, vulgarity, Freudian id conflict or a defense mechanism to hide one’s true feelings. In this view, an individual used humor to demean or disparage others, or to inflate one’s own self-worth. As such, it was treated as an undesirable behavior to be avoided. And psychologists tended to ignore it as worthy of study.But research on humor has come into the sunlight of late, with humor now viewed as a character strength. Positive psychology, a field that examines what people do well, notes that humor can be used to make others feel good, to gain intimacy or to help buffer stress. Along with gratitude, hope and spirituality, a sense of humor belongs to the set of strengths positive psychologists call transcendence; together they help us forge connections to the world and provide meaning to life. Appreciation of humor correlates with other strengths, too, such as wisdom and love of learning. And humor activities or exercises result in increased feelings of emotional well-being and optimism. Share on Twitter LinkedIn Emailcenter_img Share Pinterest For all these reasons, humor is now welcomed into mainstream experimental psychology as a desirable behavior or skill researchers want to understand. How do we comprehend, appreciate and produce humor?What it takes to get a jokeUnderstanding and creating humor require a sequence of mental operations. Cognitive psychologists favor a three-stage theory of humor. To be in on the joke you need to be able to:Mentally represent the set up of the joke.Detect an incongruity in its multiple interpretations.Resolve the incongruity by inhibiting the literal, nonfunny interpretations and appreciating the meaning of the funny one.An individual’s knowledge is organized in mental memory structures called schemas. When we see or think of something, it activates the relevant schema; Our body of knowledge on that particular topic immediately comes to mind.For example, when we see cows in a Far Side cartoon, we activate our bovine schema (stage 1). But when we notice the cows are inside the car while human beings are in the pasture grazing, there are now two mental representations in our conscious mind: what our preexisting schema mentally represented about cows and what we imagined from the cartoon (stage 2). By inhibiting the real-world representation (stage 3), we find the idea of cows driving through a countryside of grazing people funny. “I know about cows” becomes “wait, cows should be the ones in the field, not people” becomes an appreciation of the humor in an implausible situation.Funny is the subjective experience that comes from the resolution of at least two incongruous schemas. In verbal jokes, the second schema is often activated at the end, in a punchline.That’s not funnyThere are at least two reasons that we sometimes don’t get the joke. First, the punchline must create a different mental representation that conflicts with the one set up by the joke; timing and laugh tracks help signal the listener that a different representation of the punchline is possible. Second, you must be able to inhibit the initial mental representation.When jokes perpetuate a stereotype that we find offensive (as in ethnic, racist or sexist jokes), we may refuse to inhibit the offensive representation. Violence in cartoons is another example; In Roadrunner cartoons, when an anvil hits the coyote, animal lovers may be unable to inhibit the animal cruelty meaning instead of focusing on the funny meaning of yet another inevitable failure.This incongruity model can explain why older adults do not comprehend jokes as frequently as younger adults. Due to declines tied to the aging process, older adults may not have the cognitive resources needed to create multiple representations, to simultaneously hold multiple ones in order to detect the incongruity, or to inhibit the first one that was activated. Getting the joke relies on working memory capacity and control functions. However, when older adults succeed in their efforts to do these things, they typically show greater appreciation of the joke than younger adults do and report greater life satisfaction than those who don’t see the humor.There may be other aspects to humor, though, where older adults hold the advantage. Wisdom is a form of reasoning that increases with age and is correlated with subjective well-being. Humor is linked with wisdom – a wise person knows how to use humor or when to laugh at oneself.Additionally, intuition is a form of decision-making that may develop with the expertise and experience that come with aging. Like humor, intuition is enjoying a bit of a renaissance within psychology research now that it’s been reframed as a major form of reasoning. Intuition aids humor in schema formation and incongruity resolution, and we perceive and appreciate humor more through speedy first impressions rather than logical analysis.Traveling through timeIt’s a uniquely human ability to parse time, to reflect on our past, present and future, and to imagine details in these mental representations. As with humor, time perspective is fundamental to human experience. Our ability to enjoy humor is enmeshed with this mental capacity for time travel and subjective well-being.People vary greatly in the ability to detail their mental representations of the past, present and future. For example, some people may have what psychologists call a negative past perspective – frequently thinking about bygone mistakes that don’t have anything to do with the present environment, even reliving them in vivid detail despite the present or future being positive.Time perspective is related to feelings of well-being. People report a greater sense of well-being depending on the quality of the details of their past or present recollections. When study participants focused on “how” details, which tend to elicit vivid details, they were more satisfied with life than when they focused on “why,” which tend to elicit abstract ideas. For example, when remembering a failed relationship, those focusing on events that led to the breakup were more satisfied than those dwelling on abstract causal explanations concerning love and intimacy.One study found that people who use humor in positive ways held positive past time perspectives, and those using self-defeating humor held negative past time perspectives. This kind of study contributes to our understanding of how we think about and interpret social interactions. Such research also suggests that attempts to use humor in a positive way may improve the emotional tone of details in our thoughts and thereby our moods. Clinical psychologists are using humor as a treatment to increase subjective well-being.In ongoing recent work, my students and I analyzed college students’ scores on a few common scales that psychologists use to assess humor, time perspective and the need for humor – a measure of how an individual produces or seeks humor in their daily lives. Our preliminary results suggest those high in humor character strength tend to concentrate on the positive aspects of their past, present and future. Those who seek humor in their lives appear in our study sample also to focus on the pleasant aspects of their current lives.Though our investigation is still in the early phase, our data support a connection between the cognitive processes needed to mentally time-travel and to appreciate humor. Further research on time perspectives may help explain individual differences in detecting and resolving incongruities that result in funny feelings.Learning to respect laughterExperimental psychologists are rewriting the book on humor as we learn its value in our daily lives and its relationship to other important mental processes and character strengths. As the joke goes, how many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? Just one, but it has to want to change.Studying humor allows us to investigate theoretical processes involved in memory, reasoning, time perspective, wisdom, intuition and subjective well-being. And it’s a behavior of interest in and of itself as we work to describe, explain, control and predict humor across age, genders and cultures.Whereas we may not agree on what’s funny and what isn’t, there’s more consensus than ever among experimental psychologists that humor is serious and relevant to the science of behavior. And that’s no laughing matter.By Janet M. Gibson, Professor of Cognitive Psychology, Grinnell CollegeThis article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.last_img read more

International team unveils first atomic-level image of the human ‘marijuana receptor’

first_imgShare on Twitter Share In a discovery that advances the understanding of how marijuana works in the human body, an international group of scientists, including those from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), have for the first time created a three-dimensional atomic-level image of the molecular structure activated by tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active chemical in marijuana.The new insights into the human cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) will provide an essential tool for understanding why some molecules related to THC have unexpectedly complex and sometimes harmful effects. The findings also have the potential to guide drug design for pain, inflammation, obesity, fibrosis and other indications.The new study, published by the journal Cell, was led by a quartet of scientists: TSRI’s Laura Bohn, Northwest University’s Alexandros Makriyannis, Shanghai Tech University’s Zhi-Jie Liu and Raymond C. Stevens (also of the University of Southern California). Pinterest Emailcenter_img Share on Facebook LinkedIn At the beginning of the study, the team struggled to produce a crystal form–needed to obtain data to recreate the high-resolution structure–of the receptor bound with AM6538, a stabilizing a molecule that blocks the receptor’s action.“The CB1 receptor proved as challenging for crystallization as it did for understanding its functional regulation and signaling,” said Bohn, who is a professor in TSRI’s Department of Molecular Therapeutics.When the scientists succeeded in crystalizing the receptor and collecting the data, the structure of the cannabinoid receptor complex revealed an expansive and complicated binding pocket network consisting of multiple sub-pockets and channels to various regions of the receptor.Cannabinoid receptors are part of a large class of receptors known as G protein-coupled receptors (GPCR), which account for about 40 percent of all prescription pharmaceuticals on the market, and play key roles in many physiological functions. When an outside substance binds to a GPCR, it activates a G protein inside the cell to release components and create a specific cellular response.AM6538, is an antagonist/inverse agonist that binds tightly to the receptor; it has a long half-life, making it potentially useful as a treatment of addiction disorders.“As marijuana continues to become more common in society, it is critical that we understand how it works in the human body,” said Liu, who is professor and deputy director of the iHuman Institute of Shanghai Tech and is also affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.last_img read more

Study finds contraception influences sexual desire in committed relationships

first_imgEmail Share on Facebook Share Pinterest LinkedIncenter_img Share on Twitter Sex is quite wonderful when the goal is to have children. But sex can also serve as a “glue” in a committed relationship.Most animals have periods when they come into heat, and outside these periods they don’t find sex interesting at all. Humans, however, are constantly interested in sex. This sex interest can seem like a waste of energy, but an evolutionary perspective may explain why we function this way.MORE SEX WITH PROGESTERONE AND COMMITMENT A new study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and the University of New Mexico confirm that sex is important for pair-bonding between men and women in relationships. The researchers also found a correlation between the type of oral contraceptive women use and how often couples have sex. The findings were recently published in the scientific journal Evolution & Human Behavior.“The function of sex in humans outside ovulation is an evolutionary mystery. But we believe that it has to do with binding the parties in the relationship together,” says Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair, a professor of psychology at NTNU.Kennair worked with Trond Viggo Grøntvedt, Nick Grebe and University of New Mexico Professor Steve Gangestad to ask hundreds of Norwegian heterosexual women about contraception, sex and relationships.Their results show that of women in long-term relationships and who are using hormonal contraception, those who are more committed to their relationships have more sex with partners, as one might expect.“But this association was especially true when the contraceptive that women used had potent levels of synthetic hormones that mimic the effects of the natural hormone progesterone, and lower levels of the hormone estrogen,” Gangestad said.“We’re talking about intercourse here, not other types of sex like oral sex, masturbation and such. This strengthens the idea that sex outside the ovulation phase has a function besides just pleasure,” says Grøntvedt.BIG DIFFERENCES BETWEEN TYPES OF CONTRACEPTIVESHormonal contraceptives, like birth control pills, implantable rods and patches, contain two types of hormones: estrogen, which naturally peaks just before ovulation when naturally cycling women can conceive offspring, and hormones that have the same effect as progesterone, which naturally peaks during the extended sexual phase, a time when offspring cannot be conceived. The levels of each hormone type vary in different contraceptives. Hence, some contraceptives mimic hormones that are more characteristic of ovulation, whereas others mimic hormones when women can’t conceive. The women who used contraception with more estrogen were most sexually active when they were in a less committed relationship. On the other hand, women who used contraception with more progesterone were the most sexually active when they were faithful and loyal to their partners.“Before we did this study, we didn’t know how much difference there was between the two types of hormonal contraceptives,” says Grøntvedt.A CREDIBLE HOLISTIC PICTUREThe researchers surveyed two groups of women. All the women were using hormonal contraception and were in committed, heterosexual relationships. One group consisted of 112 women that researchers followed over a 12-week period. The women were asked how often and when in their cycle they had sex.The second sample group consisted of 275 women in long-term relationships who used hormonal contraception. This group was not followed over time, but the researchers asked them how many times they had had sex in the past week. This type of study – using data collected at a specific point in time – is called a cross-sectional study. Both groups were asked to indicate the type of contraception they were using, and if a pill, which brand it was.“Since we examined these two groups using different methods – a snapshot for the one group and a longitudinal study for the other – we can be confident that the results provide a reliable overall picture,” says Dr Grøntvedt.NATURAL OR SYNTHETIC HORMONES APPEARED TO BE THE SAMEThe basis for the NTNU study was a 2013 American study, where 50 women and their partners answered a series of questions about their relationships, menstrual cycles and frequency of sex. None of these women were using any kind of hormonal contraception, so only their natural hormones were involved. The study showed that women initiated sex more in the extended sexual phase – when they were not ovulating and progesterone was the dominant hormone – if they were invested in the relationship.NTNU researchers wanted to verify the American results in their study, but with participants who were using a hormonal contraceptive that simulates a natural cycle. Their results were the same as in the US study, in which women were not using any hormonal birth control.The researchers were thus able to show that how often women have sex is linked to how committed they feel towards their partner and the type of hormone they are governed by, whether natural or synthetic.“A lot of social psychology studies that have led to cool discoveries through the ages have lost status, because it hasn’t been possible to copy them and verify the results. We are extremely pleased to have been able to verify the results of the study by Grebe and his colleagues, and we are equally pleased that we have also made new discoveries,” Kennair says.last_img read more

Precise technique tracks dopamine in the brain

first_imgEmail Furthermore, because the array is so tiny, it has the potential to eventually be adapted for use in humans, to monitor whether therapies aimed at boosting dopamine levels are succeeding. Many human brain disorders, most notably Parkinson’s disease, are linked to dysregulation of dopamine.“Right now deep brain stimulation is being used to treat Parkinson’s disease, and we assume that that stimulation is somehow resupplying the brain with dopamine, but no one’s really measured that,” says Helen Schwerdt, a Koch Institute postdoc and the lead author of the paper, which appears in the journal Lab on a Chip.Studying the striatumFor this project, Cima’s lab teamed up with David H. Koch Institute Professor Robert Langer, who has a long history of drug delivery research, and Institute Professor Ann Graybiel, who has been studying dopamine’s role in the brain for decades with a particular focus on a brain region called the striatum. Dopamine-producing cells within the striatum are critical for habit formation and reward-reinforced learning.Until now, neuroscientists have used carbon electrodes with a shaft diameter of about 100 microns to measure dopamine in the brain. However, these can only be used reliably for about a day because they produce scar tissue that interferes with the electrodes’ ability to interact with dopamine, and other types of interfering films can also form on the electrode surface over time. Furthermore, there is only about a 50 percent chance that a single electrode will end up in a spot where there is any measurable dopamine, Schwerdt says.The MIT team designed electrodes that are only 10 microns in diameter and combined them into arrays of eight electrodes. These delicate electrodes are then wrapped in a rigid polymer called PEG, which protects them and keeps them from deflecting as they enter the brain tissue. However, the PEG is dissolved during the insertion so it does not enter the brain.These tiny electrodes measure dopamine in the same way that the larger versions do. The researchers apply an oscillating voltage through the electrodes, and when the voltage is at a certain point, any dopamine in the vicinity undergoes an electrochemical reaction that produces a measurable electric current. Using this technique, dopamine’s presence can be monitored at millisecond timescales.Using these arrays, the researchers demonstrated that they could monitor dopamine levels in many parts of the striatum at once.“What motivated us to pursue this high-density array was the fact that now we have a better chance to measure dopamine in the striatum, because now we have eight or 16 probes in the striatum, rather than just one,” Schwerdt says.The researchers found that dopamine levels vary greatly across the striatum. This was not surprising, because they did not expect the entire region to be continuously bathed in dopamine, but this variation has been difficult to demonstrate because previous methods measured only one area at a time.How learning happensThe researchers are now conducting tests to see how long these electrodes can continue giving a measurable signal, and so far the device has kept working for up to two months. With this kind of long-term sensing, scientists should be able to track dopamine changes over long periods of time, as habits are formed or new skills are learned.“We and other people have struggled with getting good long-term readings,” says Graybiel, who is a member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research. “We need to be able to find out what happens to dopamine in mouse models of brain disorders, for example, or what happens to dopamine when animals learn something.”She also hopes to learn more about the roles of structures in the striatum known as striosomes. These clusters of cells, discovered by Graybiel many years ago, are distributed throughout the striatum. Recent work from her lab suggests that striosomes are involved in making decisions that induce anxiety.This study is part of a larger collaboration between Cima’s and Graybiel’s labs that also includes efforts to develop injectable drug-delivery devices to treat brain disorders.“What links all these studies together is we’re trying to find a way to chemically interface with the brain,” Schwerdt says. “If we can communicate chemically with the brain, it makes our treatment or our measurement a lot more focused and selective, and we can better understand what’s going on.” LinkedIn Share on Facebook Share on Twittercenter_img Share MIT researchers have devised a way to measure dopamine in the brain much more precisely than previously possible, which should allow scientists to gain insight into dopamine’s roles in learning, memory, and emotion.Dopamine is one of the many neurotransmitters that neurons in the brain use to communicate with each other. Previous systems for measuring these neurotransmitters have been limited in how long they provide accurate readings and how much of the brain they can cover. The new MIT device, an array of tiny carbon electrodes, overcomes both of those obstacles.“Nobody has really measured neurotransmitter behavior at this spatial scale and timescale. Having a tool like this will allow us to explore potentially any neurotransmitter-related disease,” says Michael Cima, the David H. Koch Professor of Engineering in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, and the senior author of the study. Pinterestlast_img read more

Study examines: Does a larger wine glass make you drink faster — or slower?

first_imgShare LinkedIn Share on Facebook Pinterest Larger wine glasses might not always encourage faster drinking, according to research published in the journal BMC Psychology.“Alcohol consumption is the fifth largest risk factor for premature mortality and disability in the UK and worldwide.  However, factors influencing alcohol consumption are unclear. Our recent Cochrane review found that larger portion sizes and tableware increased consumption of food and non-alcoholic drinks, but found no evidence related to consumption of alcohol,” explained the study’s corresponding author, Zorana Zupan of the University of Cambridge.“In another study, published in BMC Public Health, we examined whether the size of glass in which alcohol is served affects consumption in a bar/restaurant. We found that the volume of wine purchased daily was almost 10% higher when served in larger glass, while keeping the amount served constant,” she continued.center_img Share on Twitter “Our current study examined potential mechanisms for this effect: whether larger glasses might increase our pleasure or change our perceptions of the amount of wine, leading us to drink faster or rendering us less satisfied with the served amount.”The researchers had 166 female college students drink a 175 ml portion of wine from either a smaller (250 ml) or larger (370 ml) wine glass. They used a video recording to keep track of how fast the participants consumed the alcohol, along with their total number and duration of sips.But they found no evidence that wine served in a larger glass leads to a more pleasurable drinking experience or that serving wine in a larger glass lowers satisfaction with the amount. However, they did find that the participants drank the wine more slowly when it was served in a larger glass — the opposite of what they expected.The researchers also found that drinking quicker and experiencing greater pleasure increased the desire to drink further.“Although we found no direct support that glass size moderates consumption through any of the examined mechanisms, we observed that a faster drinking rate and a pleasurable drinking experience were associated with the desire to drink more,” Zupan told PsyPost. “This suggests that pleasure and drinking rate are viable mechanisms for understanding how much people drink when wine is served in different sized glasses.”So why the inconsistent results? The researchers believe it could be attributed to the social setting. The experiment took place in a laboratory.“It is possible that while no relation between these mechanisms and glass size was observed in a lab setting, they might well affect drinking in a real world setting,” Zupan explained.“Further research is underway to confirm the reliability of large glasses increasing alcohol consumption. While the current study took place in a laboratory setting, future studies can usefully explore these mechanisms in a real world setting.”“Should larger glasses reliably increase consumption and their mechanisms elucidated, capping the size of glasses in which wine can be served could be one component of policies aimed at reducing alcohol consumption across the population.”The study, “Micro-drinking behaviours and consumption of wine in different wine glass sizes: a laboratory study“, was also co-authored by R. Pechey, D. L. Couturier, G. J. Hollands and T. M. Marteau. Emaillast_img read more

Nightmares associated with suicide risk in psychiatric patients, study finds

first_imgShare on Twitter The researchers examined 172 adult inpatients at psychiatric units of the Sant’Andrea Medical Center between January 2014 and April 2016. Most of the participants had been diagnosed with psychotic, schizoaffective, depressive, or bipolar disorders.Those who experienced monthly to weekly nightmares were at an increased risk of reporting higher levels of hopelessness, depressive symptoms, and suicide risk compared to those who reported yearly or no nightmares.“People who have frequent nightmares may be at an increased risk for suicide, especially when he or she is also feeling depressed and/or hopeless,” Pompili said.The researchers also found that patients who reported frequent nightmares tended to be younger and were more likely to have been hospitalized for a recent suicide attempt.However, the study — like all research — has some limitations.“The data for this study were collected at one point in time (i.e., cross-sectionally), so future research should collect longitudinal data over time so causal interpretations can be made,” Pompili told PsyPost.“Also, the fact that the sample only included psychiatric patients in Italy may limit generalizability. Future studies should explore these variables in populations in other countries and compare the findings across cultures.”“We believe that our study adds to the growing empirical research base establishing nightmares as a risk factor for suicidal ideation and behavior,” Pompili added. “Moreover, identifying the contributory roles of depressive symptoms and hopelessness in the nightmare-suicide risk link may offer potential targets for suicide prevention efforts in high risk psychiatric populations.”The study, “Nightmares and Suicide Risk in Psychiatric Patients: The Roles of Hopelessness and Male Depressive Symptoms“, was authored by Dorian A. Lamis, Marco Innamorati, Denise Erbuto, Isabella Berardelli, Franco Montebovi, Gianluca SeraÞni, Mario Amore, Barry Krakow, Paolo Girardi, and Maurizio Pompili. Share LinkedIn Emailcenter_img Pinterest New research provides preliminary evidence that experiencing frequent nightmares is associated with an increased risk of suicide. The findings, published in the journal Psychiatry Research, indicate that nightmares could play an important role in the outcome of psychiatric disorders.(If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.)“We were interested in exploring this topic because many individuals experience nightmares and we know that nightmares are often associated with suicidal behavior. Thus, the goal of the current study was to better understand potential mechanisms underlying the association between nightmares and suicide risk in a psychiatric population,” said Maurizio Pompili, an associate professor of psychiatry at Sapienza University of Rome and corresponding author of the study. Share on Facebooklast_img read more

Exposure to cannabinoids may exacerbate the psychological consequences of trauma

first_imgShare In their experiments, rats were administered the synthetic CB1/2 receptor agonist WIN55,212–2 for twelve days before being subjected to an inescapable electric shock.Exposure to the cannabinoid receptor agonist enhanced fear retrieval and impaired fear extinction, and also increased immobility in a forced swimming test — behaviors that reflect anxiety and depression, respectively. But it was also found to have a therapeutic effect in a startle test.The key finding is that “chronic exposure to drugs that activate CB1 receptors before being exposed to a traumatic event might have deleterious effects on the emotional response to the trauma (compared to subjects that were not expose to cannabinoids before the trauma),” Akirav told PsyPost.“We need to study what happens when we administer cannabinoids after trauma exposure to subjects that were already exposed to cannabinoids before trauma exposure. Will they need a different treatment than the non pre-trauma exposed subjects?”“The effects may be specific to CB1 receptor activation,” she added. “It could be that other cannabinoids (not directly activating the CB1 receptor) may have different (better?) effects on the response to the trauma.”The study, “Chronic exposure to cannabinoids before an emotional trauma may have negative effects on emotional function“, was authored by Brenda Sbarski and Irit Akirav. Share on Twitter Share on Facebook LinkedIncenter_img Email Synthetic cannabinoids can increase depression- and anxiety-like behaviors in a rodent model of trauma, according to new research in European Neuropsychopharmacology.“Brenda Sbarski, one of my master students, was very much interested to find out how pre-trauma exposure to cannabinoids affect the response to a traumatic event. All of our studies were conducted on rats with no prior exposure to cannabinoids (before the trauma) and she thought that this may not represent the human condition correctly,” said study author Irit Akirav of the University of Haifa.The researchers were interested in learning whether chronic exposure to a cannabinoid receptor agonist before experiencing trauma would have a therapeutic effect or would exacerbate the negative consequences of trauma. Pinterestlast_img read more