Showing posts with label Psychology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Psychology. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Do you see faces in things?

Composite image: Dr Jessica Taubert
Seeing faces in everyday objects is a common experience, but research from The University of Queensland has found people are more likely to see male faces when they see an image on the trunk of a tree or in burnt toast over breakfast.

Dr Jessica Taubert from UQ’s School of Psychology said face pareidolia, the illusion of seeing a facial structure in an everyday object, tells us a lot about how our brains detect and recognize social cues.

“The aim of our study was to understand whether examples of face pareidolia carry the kinds of social signals that faces normally transmit, such as expression and biological sex,” Dr Taubert said.

“Our results showed a striking bias in gender perception, with many more illusory faces perceived as male than female.

“As illusory faces do not have a biological sex, this bias is significant in revealing an asymmetry in our face evaluation system when given minimal information.

“The results demonstrate visual features required for face detection are not generally sufficient for the perception of female faces.”

More than 3800 participants were shown numerous examples of face pareidolia and inanimate objects with no facial structure and they were asked to indicate whether each example had a distinct emotional expression, age, and biological sex, or not.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Suicide Attempts on the Rise, But Help is Hard to Get

The rate of suicidal behavior among Americans increased from 2008 to 2019, but usage of mental health services didn’t budge, reports a team led by UConn Health. The results, reported in JAMA Psychiatry, show that people need help to overcome existing barriers to care.

Suicide overall is still rare, but the rate of people attempting it in the US increased from 2008 to 2019, despite an improving economy during that period. A team of researchers including UConn Health School of Medicine psychiatric epidemiologist Greg Rhee looked at data from a survey done by the National Institutes of Health and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of 484,732 people across the US.

The survey found rates of attempted suicide rose by 1.8 times from 2008 to 2019 in young people aged 18-25. It also rose among people struggling with substance abuse. Suicide attempts are the single most important risk factor for suicide; the rate of suicide is 100 times greater among people who’ve already made the attempt in the past year compared to the general population. Getting people mental health services soon after a suicide attempt is one of the most effective ways to help them.

The survey also asked respondents if there was a time in the last 12 months when they needed mental health services but did not receive them, and if so, why.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Better mental health found among transgender people who started hormones as teens

For transgender people, starting gender-affirming hormone treatment in adolescence is linked to better mental health than waiting until adulthood, according to new research led by the Stanford University School of Medicine.

The study, which appeared online Jan. 12 in PLOS ONE, drew on data from the largest-ever survey of U.S. transgender adults, a group of more than 27,000 people who responded in 2015. The new study found that transgender people who began hormone treatment in adolescence had fewer thoughts of suicide, were less likely to experience major mental health disorders and had fewer problems with substance abuse than those who started hormones in adulthood. The study also documented better mental health among those who received hormones at any age than those who desired but never received the treatment.

Gender-affirming hormone treatment with estrogen or testosterone can help bring a transgender person’s physical characteristics in line with their gender identity. In adolescence, hormone therapy can enable a transgender teenager to go through puberty in a way that matches their gender identity.

“This study is particularly relevant now because many state legislatures are introducing bills that would outlaw this kind of care for transgender youth,” said Jack Turban, MD, a postdoctoral scholar in pediatric and adolescent psychiatry at Stanford Medicine. “We are adding to the evidence base that shows why gender-affirming care is beneficial from a mental health perspective.”

Turban is the study’s lead author. The senior author is Alex Keuroghlian, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the National LGBTQIA+ Health Education Center at the Fenway Institute.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Anxiety and PTSD linked to increased myelin in brain

A series of fMRI scans of the brain of a military veteran with PTSD, showing gray matter regions with increased myelin. 
Credit: UCSF image by Linda Chao

A recent study links anxiety behavior in rats, as well as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in military veterans, to increased myelin — a substance that expedites communication between neurons — in areas of the brain associated with emotions and memory.

The results, reported by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and UC San Francisco (UCSF), provide a possible explanation for why some people are resilient and others vulnerable to traumatic stress, and for the varied symptoms — avoidance behavior, anxiety and fear, for example — triggered by the memory of such stress.

If, as the researchers suspect, extreme trauma causes the increased myelination, the findings could lead to treatments — drugs or behavioral interventions — that prevent or reverse the myelin production and lessen the aftereffects of extreme trauma.

Myelin is a layer of fatty substances and proteins that wraps around the axons of neurons — essentially, the insulation around the brain’s wiring — to facilitate long-distance transmission of signals and, thus, communication between distant areas of the brain. The inner regions of the brain look white — in fact, they are referred to as “white matter” — because of the myelin encasing the many large bundles of axons there.

Why people deceive themselves

A team of philosophy from the Ruhr University Bochum (RUB) and the University of Antwerp analyzed the role of self-deception in everyday life and the strategies people use to fool themselves. In the journal Philosophical Psychology, Dr. Francesco Marchi and Prof. Dr. Albert Newen's four strategies to stabilize and shield the positive self-image. According to their theory, self-deception helps people to maintain motivation in difficult situations. The article is on 6. January 2022.

Four strategies of self-deception

“All people are deceiving themselves, and not so rare ”, says Albert Newen of the RUB Institute for Philosophy II. “For example, if a father is convinced, that his son is a good student and then brings bad grades home, maybe he'll say first, that the subject is not so important or that the teacher has not explained the material well. “The researchers describe this strategy of self-deception as a reorganization of beliefs. In their article, they describe three other strategies that people often use and that start earlier so as not to allow unpleasant facts to be applied to one.

This includes selecting facts through targeted action: people avoid places or people who could bring problematic facts to them, such as the parents' day. Another strategy is to reject facts by expressing doubts about the credibility of the source. As long as the father only indirectly hears about his son's school problems and does not see the grades, he can ignore the problems. Newen and Marchi describe the last strategy as the generation of facts from an ambiguous situation: “If, for example, the friendly math teacher makes it easy to understand, that the son cannot cope and the father would have expected a clear announcement in the event of difficulties, he may interpret the great friendliness and cautious description as a positive assessment of his son's abilities ”, Francesco Marchi explains the example.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder found in recently evolved region of the ‘dark genome’

They say these new proteins can be used as biological indicators to distinguish between the two conditions, and to identify patients more prone to psychosis or suicide.

Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are debilitating mental disorders that are hard to diagnose and treat. Despite being amongst the most heritable mental health disorders, very few clues to their cause have been found in the sections of our DNA known as genes.

The scientists think that hotspots in the ‘dark genome’ associated with the disorders may have evolved because they have beneficial functions in human development, but their disruption by environmental factors leads to susceptibility to, or development of, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

The results are published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

“By scanning through the entire genome we’ve found regions, not classed as genes in the traditional sense, which create proteins that appear to be associated with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder,” said Dr Sudhakaran Prabakaran, who was based in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Genetics when he conducted the research, and is senior author of the report.

He added: “This opens up huge potential for new druggable targets. It’s really exciting because nobody has ever looked beyond the genes for clues to understanding and treating these conditions before.”

The researchers think that these genomic components of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are specific to humans - the newly discovered regions are not found in the genomes of other vertebrates. It is likely that the regions evolved quickly in humans as our cognitive abilities developed, but they are easily disrupted - resulting in the two conditions.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Vaccine study flips traditional view of product scarcity driving demand

 The first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are administered
to Iowa State University health care employees on
Friday, December 18, 2020, at the Thielen Student Health Center.
Credit: Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University
Anyone who has taken an economics class probably remembers learning about scarcity. The concept of demand outpacing supply applies to the toilet paper shortage at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and helps explain how a spike in home-improvement projects last year contributed to skyrocketing lumber prices.

“Previous research on product scarcity shows people will desire something more when it isn’t as easily accessible. Since scarcity signals value, people are willing to make more of an effort or pay more to acquire it,” said Beatriz Pereira, assistant professor of marketing at Iowa State University.

Last year, as COVID-19 cases surged across the U.S., Pereira and a team of researchers knew the initial supply of vaccines would be limited. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to test whether vaccine scarcity drives demand. But the researchers’ newly published findings in Psychology & Marketing reveal the opposite: Participants were less interested in rolling up their sleeves when they thought vaccines were scarce. The researchers point to compassion for the vulnerable as a driving factor.

At the time of the first survey, COVID-19 vaccines were not yet available to the general public.

Over 300 college students were asked to imagine a scenario where manufacturers were working nonstop to produce enough vaccines for everyone, but due to limited supply, priority was being given to people considered high risk. Half of the participants were told that vaccine doses were limited in their area, while the other half were told there were plenty of doses available. The survey then asked both groups of participants the likelihood that they would book a vaccination appointment if their doctor said they could get a shot the following week.

“Interest in booking an appointment dropped by as much as 15% when the participants perceived vaccines as scarce,” said Pereira.

Gum disease increases risk of other illness such as mental health and heart conditions

A University of Birmingham-led study shows an increased risk of patients developing illnesses including mental ill-health and heart conditions if they have a GP-inputted medical history of periodontal (gum) disease.

Experts carried out a first of its kind study of the GP records of 64,379 patients who had a GP-inputted recorded history of periodontal disease, including gingivitis and periodontitis (the condition that occurs if gum disease is left untreated and can lead to tooth loss). Of these, 60,995 had gingivitis and 3,384 had periodontitis. These patients’ records were compared to those of 251,161 patients who had no record of periodontal disease. Across the cohorts, the average age was 44 years and 43% were male, while 30% were smokers. Body Mass Index (BMI), ethnicity and deprivation levels were also similar across the groups.

The researchers examined the data to establish how many of the patients with and without periodontal disease go on to develop cardiovascular disease (e.g., heart failure, stroke, vascular dementia), cardiometabolic disorders (e.g., high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes), autoimmune conditions (e.g., arthritis, Type 1 diabetes, psoriasis), and mental ill-health (e.g., depression, anxiety and serious mental illness) over an average follow-up of around three years.

From the research, published today in journal BMJ Open, the team discovered that those patients with a recorded history of periodontal disease at the start of the study were more likely to go on and be diagnosed with one of these additional conditions over an average of three years, compared to those in the cohort without periodontal disease at the beginning of the research. The results of the study showed, in patients with a recorded history of periodontal disease at the start of the study, the increased risk of developing mental ill-health was 37%, while the risk of developing autoimmune disease was increased by 33%, and the risk of developing cardiovascular disease was raised by 18%, while the risk of having a cardiometabolic disorder was increased by 7% (with the increased risk much higher for Type 2 diabetes at 26%).

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Childhood trauma linked to psychotic symptoms in young cannabis users

Childhood trauma may increase the chance of young people experiencing psychotic symptoms when using cannabis, University of Queensland research has found.

UQ School of Psychology Honorary Fellow, Dr Molly Carlyle, said childhood trauma was a major factor in cannabis use problems and psychosis in young people.

“Our research found cannabis use was associated with more psychotic-like experiences, and this association was stronger for people with more experiences of childhood trauma,” Dr Carlyle said.

“Similarly, people who experienced more childhood trauma were more likely to engage in more harmful cannabis use.

“They also experienced more dysphoria/paranoia when using cannabis, which was also linked to psychotic-like experiences.

“Any history of childhood trauma should be addressed as part of treatment services for cannabis use problems and psychotic disorders.”

The research team analyzed responses from 2630 young people about their use of the drug, history of childhood trauma, psychotic-like experiences and subjective effects such as euphoria, dysphoria or paranoia when using cannabis.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Women Are Facing Greater Interruption Challenges with Remote Work Than Their Male Colleagues

Women employees are facing bigger career challenges than their male colleagues with interruptions to their work-from-home life, according to new research by UConn management professor Nora Madjar.

Madjar’s research, “Working from Home During COVID-19: A study of Interruption Landscape,’’ was published this month by the Journal of Applied Psychology. She co-authored the piece with professors Sophie Leroy of the University of Washington and Aaron Schmidt of the University of Minnesota.

“The gender divide was particularly surprising to us. We had heard anecdotally that it occurred, but now we have empirical evidence that women are interrupted more frequently, both with work-related and personal responsibilities,’’ Madjar says.

“Women have paid an additional price since the onset of the pandemic,’’ she says. “This is more than just an inconvenience. Work interruptions are associated with reduced employee performance and higher levels of emotional exhaustion.’’

The researchers discovered some practical solutions that employers can take to help their employees minimize interruptions, including assistance in establishing a dedicated work space within the employee’s home.

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