. Scientific Frontline: Psychology
Showing posts with label Psychology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Psychology. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Daytime Naps Reinforce Memories of Emotional Trauma and Anxiety

According to Yuri Pavlov, the positive effect of sleep on memory can be observed years later.
Photo Credit: Nadezhda Pavlova

Scientists from Ural Federal University and the University of Tübingen (Germany) studied the effect of sleep on the formation and translation of primary memories of something scary into long-term memory. Neurobiologists discovered that sleeping during the day strengthens memory of disturbing and frightening events, but a similar effect of memory strengthening is also observed after a period of calm wakefulness. The findings will be useful for developing rehabilitation strategies for people who have been emotionally traumatized by disasters, warfare, and violence. The study was published in the journal Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience.

Memory consolidation - the transition of memories from short-term memory to long-term memory - occurs primarily during sleep. Studies show that sleep after learning can have positive effects that are superior to passive wakefulness. This occurs by reactivating important memories, which may also be reflected in dreams. The positive effects of dreaming can be observed even years later. However, there are currently no studies that analyze whether sleep enhances the effect of remembering emotionally difficult events. Therefore, scientists decided to find out how sleep affects the memory of a person's experience of fear.

Monday, October 31, 2022

Just like humans, more intelligent jays have greater self-control

A study has found that Eurasian jays can pass a version of the ‘marshmallow test’ – and those with the greatest self-control also score the highest on intelligence tests.
Photo Credit: Takashi Yanagisawa

This is the first evidence of a link between self-control and intelligence in birds.

Self-control - the ability to resist temptation in favor of a better but delayed reward – is a vital skill that underpins effective decision-making and future planning.

Jays are members of the corvid family, often nicknamed the ‘feathered apes’ because they rival non-human primates in their cognitive abilities. Corvids hide, or ‘cache’, their food to save it for later. In other words, they need to delay immediate gratification to plan for future meals. The researchers think this may have driven the evolution of self-control in these birds.

Self-control has been previously shown to be linked to intelligence in humans, chimpanzees and – in an earlier study by these researchers – in cuttlefish. The greater the intelligence, the greater the self-control.

The new results show that the link between intelligence and self-control exists across distantly related animal groups, suggesting it has evolved independently several times.

Of all the corvids, jays in particular are vulnerable to having their caches stolen by other birds. Self-control also enables them to wait for the right moment to hide their food without being seen or heard.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Considering COVID a hoax is ‘gateway’ to belief in conspiracy theories

Data showed one strong trend suggesting that financial distress during the lockdown could have been a factor in adopting conspiracy theory beliefs about the pandemic – even among those who started off with low levels of conspiracist ideation.
Photo Credit: Lara Jameson

Belief that the COVID-19 pandemic was a hoax – that its severity was exaggerated or that the virus was deliberately released for sinister reasons – functions as a “gateway” to believing in conspiracy theories generally, new research has found.

In the two-survey study, people who reported greater belief in conspiracy theories about the pandemic – for which there is no evidence – were more likely to later report they believed that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen from Donald Trump through widespread voter fraud, which is also not true. Participants’ overall inclination to believe in conspiracy theories also increased more among those who reported believing COVID-19 was a hoax.

Based on the results, the Ohio State University researchers have proposed the “gateway conspiracy” hypothesis, which argues that conspiracy theory beliefs prompted by a single event lead to increases in conspiratorial thinking over time.

Preliminary evidence suggests a sense of distrust may function as one trigger.

“It’s speculative, but it appears that once people adopt one conspiracy belief, it promotes distrust in institutions more generally – it could be government, science, the media, whatever,” said senior author Russell Fazio, professor of psychology at Ohio State. “Once you start viewing events through that distrustful lens, it’s very easy to adopt additional conspiracy theories.”

Autistic people are more likely to experience depression and anxiety during pregnancy

Credit: PetraSolajova

Autistic people are more vulnerable to depression and anxiety during pregnancy, according to new research from the University of Cambridge. The results are published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders and have important implications for supporting autistic people during pregnancy.

In the study, led by researchers at the Autism Research Centre, 524 non-autistic people and 417 autistic people completed an online survey about their experience of pregnancy. Anyone who was pregnant at the time of responding or had previously given birth was eligible to take part.

The study revealed that autistic parents were around three times more likely than non-autistic parents to report having experienced prenatal depression (9% of non-autistic parents and 24% of autistic parents) and anxiety (14% of non-autistic parents and 48% of autistic parents).

Autistic respondents also experienced lower satisfaction with pregnancy healthcare. Autistic respondents were less likely to trust professionals, feel that professionals took their questions and concerns seriously, feel that professionals treated them respectfully, and be satisfied with how information was presented to them in appointments. Furthermore, autistic respondents were more likely to experience sensory issues during pregnancy and more likely to feel overwhelmed by the sensory environment of prenatal appointments.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Genes that influence dyslexia

A large-scale gene study identifies series of DNA variants linked to dyslexia

An international team of scientists, including researchers at the University of Edinburgh and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen (Netherlands), has for the first time pinpointed a large number of genes that are reliably associated with dyslexia. Around a third of the 42 genetic variants identified have been previously linked to general cognitive abilities and educational attainment. The researchers say their findings may aid our understanding of the biology behind why some children struggle to read or spell.

Dyslexia is known to run in families – partly because of genetic factors – but, until now, little was known about the identities of the genes involved. The new study, led by the University of Edinburgh and published in the journal Nature Genetics, represents the largest molecular genetic investigation of dyslexia to date. Previous studies linking dyslexia to individual genes have been carried out with much smaller numbers of families and the evidence was unclear, the research team says.

The team analyzed DNA from more than 50,000 adults who have been diagnosed with dyslexia and more than one million adults who have not, identified via collaboration with the US company, 23andMe, Inc. “Over several decades of earlier research, more limited genetic investigations of dyslexia gave us tantalizing first clues to how DNA may be involved.” notes Simon Fisher, director of the Language and Genetics department at the Max Planck Institute. “Now, largescale genomic studies of this kind promise to transform understanding of how our genes help us learn to read and write.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Forgetting is natural, but learning how to learn can slow it down

Students studying at Iowa State University.
Credit: Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University

Whether you’re trying to ace a test or pick up a new hobby, Iowa State Psychology Professor Shana Carpenter says combining two strategies – spacing and retrieval practice – is key to success.

Carpenter is the lead author of a paper in Nature Reviews Psychology that examined more than 100 years of research on learning.

“The benefits of spacing and retrieval practice have been confirmed over and over in studies in labs, classrooms, workplaces, but the reason why we’re showcasing this research is because these two techniques haven’t fully caught on. If they were utilized all the time, we’d see drastic increases in learning,” said Carpenter.

In the paper, Carpenter and her co-authors describe spacing as a strategy to learn in small doses over time. It’s the opposite of cramming the night before an exam. In one study, medical students who received repeated surgery training over three weeks performed better and faster on tests 2 weeks and 1 year later compared to medical students who had the same training all on one day.

Carpenter says there isn’t a universal rule about how much time to schedule between practice sessions. But research shows returning to the material after forgetting some – but not all – of the content is effective.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

New study undermines the theory that depressed people are just more realistic

Photo credit: Hieu Van

Are depressed people simply more realistic in judging how much they control their lives, while others view the world through rose-colored lenses, living under the illusion that they have more control than they do?

That’s the general idea behind “depressive realism,” a theory that has held sway in science and popular culture for more than four decades.

The problem is, it’s just not true, new research finds.

“It’s an idea that exerts enough appeal that lots of people seem to believe it, but the evidence just isn’t there to sustain it,” says Professor Don Moore, the Lorraine Tyson Mitchell Chair in Leadership and Communication at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and co-author of the study, in press at the journal Collabra:Psychology. “The good news is you don’t have to be depressed to understand how much control you have.”

Depressive realism

The concept of depressive realism stems from a 1979 study of college students examining whether they could predict how much control they had over whether a light turned green when they pushed a button. The original research concluded that the depressed students were better at identifying when they had no control over the lights, while those who weren’t depressed tended to overestimate their level of control.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Resistance to Stress and Anxiety Can Be Trained Like a Muscle

According to Rustam Muslumov, anxiety and stress are emotions aimed at assessing the future.
Photo credit: Anna Marinovich

Humans, unlike the animal world, are oriented toward finding problems. The human being is constantly looking at his environment and discovering imperfections that make him think about what could be changed and improved. This is how the emotions of anxiety and stress emerge. Without moderate stress it is impossible for a person to develop, yet the constant presence in these situations has a negative impact on his mental and physical health. That is why it is necessary to cultivate resilience - the ability not to increase anxiety, but to cope with it correctly and in time.

Stress, like any other emotion, is important for humans. It helps to solve non-standard problems aimed at protecting oneself in the face of change and instability. The nature of anxiety, on the other hand, is such that one looks to the future with two ideas in mind: something bad might happen, and I cannot cope with it and keep myself safe if it does. Being constantly anxious can lead a person to a state of distress. Rustam Muslumov, Associate Professor of the Department of Pedagogy and Psychology of Education at Ural Federal University, spoke about this on the Komsomolskaya Pravda broadcast.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Adverse health outcomes associated with long-term antidepressant use

Long-term antidepressant use may double the risk of heart disease, finds the most comprehensive epidemiological study to date to investigate the health consequences from using the medication over ten years. The University of Bristol-led study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry Open, analyzed data on over 200,000 people.

Antidepressants are one of the most widely prescribed drugs in England. In 2018, over 70-million antidepressant prescriptions were dispensed. The striking rise in prescribing (nearly doubling in a decade) is due mainly to long-term treatment rather than increased diagnosis. However, little is known about the health consequences of long-term use of these medicines.

Researchers from Bristol’s Centre for Academic Mental Health aimed to find out if long-term antidepressant use (over five and ten years) was associated with the onset of six health problems: diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke and related syndromes, and two mortality outcomes (death from cardiovascular disease and from any cause).

Using data from UK Biobank, a large-scale biomedical database and research resource containing anonymized genetic, lifestyle and health information from half a million UK participants, the team linked comprehensive health data with prescription and disease data (using GP records) on 222,121 adults aged between 40 to 69-years old.

Friday, September 23, 2022

New research reveals the relationship between particular brain circuits and different aspects of mental wellbeing

Brain circuits and wellbeing
Credit: Miriam Klein-Flugge 

Associate Professor Miriam Klein-Flügge and colleagues looked at brain connectivity and mental health data from nearly 500 people. In particular, they looked at the connectivity of the amygdala – a brain region well known for its importance in emotion and reward processing. The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to consider seven small subdivisions of the amygdala and their associated networks rather than combining the whole region together as previous studies have done.

The team also adopted a more precise approach to the data on mental wellbeing, looking at a large group of healthy people and using questionnaires that captured information about wellbeing in the social, emotional, sleep, and anger domains. This generated more precise data than many investigations which still use broad diagnoses such as depression or anxiety, which involve many different symptoms.

The paper, published in Nature Human Behavior, shows how the improved level of detail about both brain connectivity and wellbeing made it possible to characterize the exact brain networks that relate to these distinct aspects of mental health. The brain connections that mattered most for discerning whether an individual was struggling with sleep problems, for example, looked very different from those that carried information about their social wellbeing.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Statin use is not justified for healthy people with high cholesterol

Professor David Diamond, Department of Psychology
Credit: University of South Florida
About 40 million adults in the United States regularly take statins to lower their cholesterol levels and reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke, according to American Heart Association data from 2020.

However, many of them don’t stand to benefit from these drugs based on new research from David Diamond, a neuroscientist and cardiovascular disease researcher in the Department of Psychology at the University of South Florida.

Diamond and his co-authors reviewed literature from medical trials involving patients taking either a statin or placebo. They then narrowed their review to look at study participants with elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL), the so-called “bad cholesterol,” which can be reduced with a statin. Some individuals with high LDL also had high triglycerides (fat in the blood) and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the “good cholesterol,” which put them at the highest risk of having a heart attack.

But others with high LDL were very different. They had low triglycerides and high HDL, which meant they were healthier. People with optimal triglycerides and HDL levels typically exercise, have low blood pressure and low blood sugar, and are at a low risk of a heart attack.

Diamond and his co-authors asked two questions: If people are at a low risk of a heart attack based on having optimal triglycerides and HDL, but they also have high LDL, does that raise their risk? Further, would these people benefit from lowering their LDL with a statin?

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Study finds white children more likely to be overdiagnosed for ADHD

A new study by Professor Paul Morgan finds that white children are more likely to be overdiagnosed for ADHD than children of color.
Photo credit: Ben White on Unsplash

A new study led by Paul Morgan, Harry and Marion Eberly Faculty Fellow and professor of education (educational theory and policy) and demography, and published in the Journal of Learning Disabilities, examines which sociodemographic groups of children are more likely to be overdiagnosed and overtreated for ADHD. The researchers analyzed data from 1,070 U.S. elementary school children who had previously displayed above-average behavioral, academic or executive functioning the year before their initial ADHD diagnoses. The team said those children were considered unlikely to have ADHD by the researchers because children diagnosed and treated for ADHD should displaychronically inattentive, hyperactive or impulsive behaviors that impair their functioning and result in below-average academic or social development.

A problem with ADHD overdiagnosis, Morgan said, is that it contributes to stigma and skepticism toward those experiencing more serious impairments.

“It undermines a confidence in the disorder,” he said. “If anyone can be diagnosed with ADHD, then what is ADHD? For those who have significant impairments, they may experience greater skepticism about the condition. Mental health resources are already scarce, those with serious impairments could lose out.”

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

More than 10 million children were affected by COVID-19-associated parental and caregiver deaths

According to a new modeling study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, the number of children estimated to have experienced the death of a parent or caregiver as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has climbed to more than 10.5 million globally as of May 1, 2022.

The new study, involving the University of Oxford, Imperial College, the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO), builds on the best available and most conservative data recently published by WHO on excess COVID-19 deaths (14.9 million as of Dec 31, 2021), to establish estimates of orphaned children in every country. This is the first-time availability of these comprehensive data on excess deaths for every country, and it enabled the data modelers to update global minimum estimates of pandemic orphanhood and caregiver death among children based on these excess deaths.

Excess deaths are typically defined as the difference between the observed numbers of deaths in specific time periods and expected numbers of deaths in the same time periods. Estimates of excess deaths can provide information about the burden of mortality potentially related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including deaths that are directly or indirectly attributed to COVID-19.

In this study, authors analyzed country-level deaths, fertility rates, and national excess mortality data provided by the WHO, the Economist, and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, and used mathematical modelling to develop global estimates based on the WHO estimates, which were the most conservative.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

How does nature nurture the brain?

Credit: Jessica Rockowitz on Unsplash

After a 60-minute walk in nature, activity in brain regions involved in stress processing decreases. This is the finding of a recent study by the Lise Meitner Group for Environmental Neuroscience at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, published in Molecular Psychiatry.

Living in a city is a well-known risk factor for developing a mental disorder, while living close to nature is largely beneficial for mental health and the brain. A central brain region involved in stress processing, the amygdala, has been shown to be less activated during stress in people who live in rural areas, compared to those who live in cities, hinting at the potential benefits of nature. “But so far the hen-and-egg problem could not be disentangled, namely whether nature actually caused the effects in the brain or whether the particular individuals chose to live in rural or urban regions”, says Sonja Sudimac, predoctoral fellow in the Lise Meitner Group for Environmental Neuroscience and lead author of the study.

To achieve causal evidence, the researchers from the Lise Meitner Group for Environmental Neuroscience examined brain activity in regions involved in stress processing in 63 healthy volunteers before and after a one-hour walk in Grunewald forest or a shopping street with traffic in Berlin using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The results of the study revealed that activity in the amygdala decreased after the walk in nature, suggesting that nature elicits beneficial effects on brain regions related to stress.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Cannabis users no less likely to be motivated or able to enjoy life’s pleasure

Credit: RODNAE Productions

Cannabis users also show no difference in motivation for rewards, pleasure taken from rewards, or the brain’s response when seeking rewards, compared to non-users.

Cannabis is the third most commonly used controlled substance worldwide, after alcohol and nicotine. A 2018 report from the NHS Digital Lifestyles Team stated that almost one in five (19%) of 15-year-olds in England had used cannabis in the previous 12 months, while in 2020 the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported the proportion in the United States to be 28% of 15-16-year-olds.

A common stereotype of cannabis users is the ‘stoner’ – think Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad, The Dude in The Big Lebowski, or, more recently, Argyle in Stranger Things. These are individuals who are generally depicted as lazy and apathetic.

At the same time, there has been considerable concern of the potential impact of cannabis use on the developing brain and that using cannabis during adolescence might have a damaging effect at an important time in an individual’s life.

A team led by scientists at UCL, the University of Cambridge and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London carried out a study examining whether cannabis users show higher levels of apathy (loss of motivation) and anhedonia (loss of interest in or pleasure from rewards) when compared to controls and whether they were less willing to exert physical effort to receive a reward. The research was part of the CannTEEN study.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Study finds tiny brain area controls work for rewards

The lateral habenula in the mouse brain, with axons streaming down to dopaminergic and serotonergic centers. Credit: Warden Lab

A tiny but important area in the middle of the brain acts as a switch that determines when an animal is willing to work for a reward and when it stops working, according to a study published Aug. 31 in the journal Current Biology.

“The study changes how we think about this particular brain region,” said senior author Melissa Warden, assistant professor and Miriam M. Salpeter Fellow in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, which is shared between the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“It has implications for psychiatric disorders, particularly depression and anxiety,” Warden said.

The paper, “Tonic Activity in Lateral Habenula Neurons Acts as a Neutral Valence Brake on Reward-Seeking Behavior,” illuminates the role of the lateral habenula, a small structure on top of the thalamus, which funnels higher-level information from the front and center of the brain to areas that produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine.

The lateral habenula’s exact role has been unclear until now. The new study shows that when neurons in this brain area turn off, an animal will work for rewards; when those neurons fire, the animal becomes disengaged and stops working. Experiments revealed that the lateral habenula turns on specifically when an animal has had enough of a reward and is satisfied, or when it finds its work no longer yields a reward.

Brain activity during sleep differs in young people with genetic risk of psychiatric disorders

Photo by Lux Graves on Unsplash

Young people living with a genetic alteration that increases the risk of psychiatric disorders have markedly different brain activity during sleep, a study led by researchers from the Universities of Bristol and Cardiff published in the journal eLife shows.

The brain activity patterns during sleep shed light on the neurobiology behind a genetic condition called 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome (22q11.2DS) and could be used as a biomarker to detect the onset of neuropsychiatric disorders in people with 22q11.2DS.

Caused by a gene deletion of around 30 genes on chromosome 22, 22q11.2DS occurs in one in 3000 births. It increases the risk of intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and epileptic seizures. It is also one of the largest biological risk factors for schizophrenia. However, the biological mechanisms underlying psychiatric symptoms in 22q11.2DS are unclear.

Marianne van den Bree, co-senior author and Professor of Psychological Medicine at Cardiff said: “We have recently shown that the majority of young people with 22q11.2DS have sleep problems, particularly insomnia and sleep fragmentation, that are linked with psychiatric disorders. However, our previous analysis was based on parents reporting on sleep quality of their children, and the neurophysiology – what’s happening to brain activity – has not yet been explored.”

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Sleepless and selfish: Lack of sleep makes us less generous

The new study shows how sleep loss dramatically reduces the desire to help others, triggered by a breakdown in the activity of key prosocial brain networks.
Image credit: Eti Ben Simon and Matthew Walker, UC Berkeley

Humans help each other — it’s one of the foundations of civilized society. But a new study by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, reveals that a lack of sleep blunts this fundamental human attribute, with real-world consequences.

Lack of sleep is known to be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes, hypertension and overall mortality. However, these new discoveries show that a lack of sleep also impairs our basic social conscience, making us withdraw our desire and willingness to help other people.

In one portion of the new study, the scientists showed that charitable giving in the week after the beginning of Daylight-Saving Time, when residents of most states “spring forward” and lose one hour of their day, dropped by 10% — a decrease not seen in states that do not change their clocks or when states return to standard time in the fall.

The study, led by UC Berkeley research scientist Eti Ben Simon and Matthew Walker, a UC Berkeley professor of psychology, adds to a growing body of evidence demonstrating that inadequate sleep not only harms the mental and physical well-being of an individual, but also compromises the bonds between individuals — and even the altruistic sentiment of an entire nation.

COVID-19 pandemic fallout worse for women

Dr Terry Fitzsimmons, Lead author
Credit: University of Queensland

Researchers from The University of Queensland have found the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia has had a greater financial and psychological impact on women than men.

A study conducted by the UQ Business School shows women have experienced more significant impacts on their overall employment, hours of work, domestic labor and mental health and wellbeing.

Lead researcher Dr Terry Fitzsimmons said one reason was the over-representation of women in industries most affected by lockdowns.

“Women are also more likely to be casual, part-time or contract workers which were among the first to lose their jobs as businesses struggled in response to lockdown,” Dr Fitzsimmons said.

Additionally, the study found women were less likely to be considered ‘essential workers’, so bore a greater share of caring responsibilities including home schooling, when schools and child care centers closed.

“Women either reduced their work hours or stopped working altogether and took on more domestic labor than their male counterparts while at home with their children,” Dr Fitzsimmons said.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Random Acts of Kindness Make a Bigger Splash Than Expected

Even though they often enhance happiness, acts of kindness such as giving a friend a ride or bringing food for a sick family member can be somewhat rare because people underestimate how good these actions make recipients feel, according to new research from The University of Texas at Austin.

The study by UT Austin McCombs School of Business Assistant Professor of Marketing Amit Kumar, along with Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago, found that although givers tend to focus on the object they’re providing or action they’re performing, receivers instead concentrate on the feelings of warmth the act of kindness has conjured up. This means that givers’ “miscalibrated expectations” can function as a barrier to performing more prosocial behaviors such as helping, sharing or donating.

The research is online in advance in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

To quantify these attitudes and behaviors, the researchers conducted a series of experiments.

In one, the researchers recruited 84 participants in Chicago’s Maggie Daley Park. Participants could choose whether to give away to a stranger a cup of hot chocolate from the park’s food kiosk or keep it for themselves. Seventy-five agreed to give it away.

Researchers delivered the hot chocolate to the stranger and told them the study participant had chosen to give them their drink. Recipients reported their mood, and performers indicated how they thought recipients felt after getting the drink.

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