Archive for category Stress

Close Relationships Influence Health, Happiness


Close Relationships Influence Health, HappinessWhile sociologists and psychologists have known that having a close relationship improves one’s health and happiness, the biological underpinnings that influence these health effects has been obscure.

Learning how relationships provide protective health benefits has been accentuated with new findings that show dramatic benefits of being in a relationship for health issues ranging from pregnancy and birth defects to cancer and chronic disease.

“We know that having relationships in general and being socially integrated is associated with a reduced risk of mortality,” said psychologist Dr. Paula Pietromonaco of the University of Massachusetts.

“Our research follows from attachment theory, which suggests that there is one primary person that people turn to for comfort when they are distressed or frightened.” In adulthood, that person is often a romantic partner or spouse, she says.

“These sorts of relationship partners are especially important when people are faced with a stressful event because they have the potential to comfort and calm the person who is experiencing distress or to hinder that person’s efforts to feel better.”

In an ongoing longitudinal study of 225 newlywed couples, Pietromonaco’s team is finding that the way people feel attached to each other affects cortisol levels in response to stress — and can possibly predict depression or anxiety over time.

That is, our emotional quotient, as associated with being in a relationship, can influence future mental health challenges.

Researchers say preliminary findings show that when a wife is more anxiously attached – that is, someone who desires a great deal of intimacy and seeks reassurance and support – and a husband who is more “avoidantly attached,” cortisol levels spike in anticipation of a conflict discussion followed by a sharp decline in cortisol.

“In addition, these same anxious wife/avoidant husband couples appear to have more difficulty in discussing the conflict, and their behavior suggests greater disengagement from the discussion.”

Pietromonaco believes the patterns may signal difficulty with emotion regulation, and it is possible that individuals in these couples will be at greater risk for symptoms of depression and anxiety over time.

In the study, researchers are following the couples over the first 3 to 4 years of marriage, and will be examining the extent to which the patterns they see now predict changes in emotional health over the early years of marriage.

Upon a review of studies that addressed the effects of two-person relationships on a range of health topics Pietromonaco discovered several instances in which greater prenatal social support predicts more optimal fetal growth, higher infant birth weight, and reduced risk of low birth weight.

How, the researchers caution that such studies need to be replicated and expanded to take into account both perceived support as well as actual support interactions among both partners.

Researchers say the emerging field of relationship science will explore in what way the expectations, beliefs, and experiences of both partners can predict emotional and physical health.

“Although research on psychology and health has begun to consider these sorts of ‘partner effects,’ they are often not incorporated into studies designed to intervene to help people cope with chronic diseases such as cancer or diabetes,” said Pietromonaco.

“As Lynn Martire [Penn State] and her colleagues have noted, many couple intervention studies include both partners but assess psychological adjustment for the patient only.

“Yet how the patient’s caregiver, who is often a spouse, is adjusting and coping may be very important in predicting how patients themselves cope.”

Source: Society for Personality and Social Psychology

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Stress Hormones Impede Healthy Behavioral Change


Stress Hormones Impede Healthy Behavioral ChangeFor many people, stress is the factor that unravels diets, exercise plans and other goal-directed tasks.

European researchers believe they have discovered why stressed persons are more likely to lapse back into old habits rather than follow a goal-directed agenda.

In a study, investigators determined stress hormones shut down the activity of brain regions for goal-directed behavior, yet do not affect the brain regions responsible for habitual behavior.

Researchers from the Ruhr-Universität in Germany, together with colleagues from the University Hospital Bergmannsheil, mimicked a stress situation in the body using drugs. They then examined the brain activity using functional MRI scanning.

The scientists found that the interaction of the stress hormones hydrocortisone and noradrenaline shut down the activity of brain regions for goal-directed behavior. Yet the brain regions responsible for habitual behavior remained unaffected.

During the research on different stress hormones, the cognitive psychologists used three substances: a placebo, the stress hormone hydrocortisone and yohimbine. Yohimbine is a product which ensures that the stress hormone noradrenaline stays active longer.

Some study participants received hydrocortisone alone or just yohimbine, while other participants received both substances. A fourth group was administered a placebo. Altogether, 69 volunteers participated in the study.

During the experiment, all participants, both male and female, learned that they would receive cocoa or orange juice as a reward if they chose certain symbols on the computer.

After this learning phase, volunteers were allowed to eat as many oranges or as much chocolate pudding as they liked. “This procedure weakens the value of the reward,” said Lars Schwabe, Ph.D.

“Whoever eats chocolate pudding will lose the attraction to cocoa. Whoever is satiated with oranges, has less appetite for orange juice.”

In this context, goal-directed behavior means: Whoever has previously eaten the chocolate pudding chooses the symbols leading to cocoa reward less frequently. Whoever is satiated with oranges selects less frequently the symbols associated with orange juice.

The findings show that only the combination of yohimbine and hydrocortisone attenuates or satisfies goal-directed behavior.

As expected, volunteers who took yohimbine and hydrocortisone did not behave in a goal-directed manner but according to habit. In other words, satiation with oranges or chocolate pudding had no effect.

Persons who had taken a placebo or only one medication, on the other hand, behaved goal-directed and showed a satiating effect.

The brain data revealed: The combination of yohimbine and hydrocortisone reduced the activity in the forebrain – in the so-called orbitofrontal and medial prefrontal cortex.

Researchers say that these areas have been previously associated with goal-directed behavior. The brain regions which are important for habitual learning, on the other hand, were similarly active for all volunteers.

Source: Ruhr-University Bochum

Brain abstract photo by shutterstock.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Mindfulness Practice Helps Seniors Combat Loneliness


Mindfulness Practice Helps Elders Combat LonelinessLoneliness can be a major risk factor for health conditions such as depression, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s. It is especially problematic among seniors, for whom seclusion and isolation may even lead to death.

Experts say that modern strategies to reduce loneliness in the elderly population — by participation in social networking programs in community centers — have not been successful. But a new study finds that a new/old approach may provide an innovative solution.

In the investigation, J. David Creswell, Ph.D., from Carnegie Mellon University looked at the use of mindfulness meditation to reduce loneliness in older adults.

In the review, researchers found that mindfulness meditation — a 2,500-year-old practice dating back to Buddha that focuses on creating an attentive awareness of the present moment — not only reduced loneliness but also lowered inflammation levels.

Inflammation is believed to promote the development and progression of many diseases.

These findings, published in Brain, Behavior & Immunity, provide valuable insights into how mindfulness meditation training can be used as a novel approach for reducing loneliness and the risk of disease in older adults.

“We always tell people to quit smoking for health reasons, but rarely do we think about loneliness in the same way,” said Creswell.

“We know that loneliness is a major risk factor for health problems and mortality in older adults. This research suggests that mindfulness meditation training is a promising intervention for improving the health of older adults.”

For the study, the research team recruited 40 healthy adults aged 55-85 who indicated an interest in learning mindfulness meditation techniques. Each person was assessed at the beginning and end of the study using an established loneliness scale. Blood samples also were collected.

The participants were randomly assigned to receive either the eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program or no treatment.

The MBSR program consisted of weekly two-hour meetings in which participants learned body awareness techniques — noticing sensations and working on breathing — and worked their way toward understanding how to mindfully attend to their emotions and daily life practices.

They also were asked to practice mindfulness meditation exercises for 30 minutes each day at home and attended a daylong retreat.

Investigators determined that eight weeks of the mindfulness meditation training decreased the participants’ loneliness.

They also discovered that participants reduced genetic blood inflammatory responses as well as a measure of C-Reactive Protein (CRP).

These findings suggest that mindfulness meditation training may reduce older adults’ inflammatory disease risk.

“Reductions in the expression of inflammation-related genes were particularly significant because inflammation contributes to a wide variety of the health threats including cancer, cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative diseases,” said study collaborator Steven Cole.

While the health effects of the observed gene expression changes were not directly measured in the study, Cole noted that “these results provide some of the first indications that immune cell gene expression profiles can be modulated by a psychological intervention.”

Creswell added that while this research suggests a promising new approach for treating loneliness and inflammatory disease risk in older adults, more work needs to be done.

“If you’re interested in using mindfulness meditation, find an instructor in your city,” he said. “It’s important to train your mind like you train your biceps in the gym.”

Source: Carnegie Mellon University

Elderly woman meditating photo by shutterstock.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Research Uncovers Yoga’s Stress Reduction Secrets


Research Uncovers Yoga's Stress Reduction SecretsResearchers have determined that yoga can help to relieve stress by reducing the associated cellular inflammation.

The recent study is a follow up to the discovery by UCLA scientists that a specific type of yoga — used for brief, simple daily meditation — reduced the stress levels of people who care for those stricken by Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Researchers discovered a certain form of chanting yogic meditation, practiced for 12 minutes daily for eight weeks, led to a reduction in the biological mechanisms responsible for an increase in the immune system’s inflammation response.

Scientists now that inflammation, if constantly activated, can contribute to a multitude of chronic health problems.

In a study of 45 family dementia caregivers, psychiatrist Dr. Helen Lavretsky and colleagues found a difference in genetic response after the Kirtan Kriya Meditation (KKM). The discovered that 68 genes responded differently after KKM, resulting in reduced inflammation.

The study is reported in the current online edition of the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Caregivers are the unsung heroes for their yeoman’s work in taking care of loved ones that have been stricken with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, said Lavretsky.

However, caring for a frail or demented family member can be a significant life stressor. Older adult caregivers report higher levels of stress and depression and lower levels of satisfaction, vigor and life in general.

Moreover, caregivers show higher levels of the biological markers of inflammation. Family members in particular are often considered to be at risk of stress-related disease and general health decline.

The issue is salient given the aging of America and the expected dramatic increase in prevalence of dementia. Currently, at least five million Americans provide care for someone with dementia.

“We know that chronic stress places caregivers at a higher risk for developing depression,” she said.

“On average, the incidence and prevalence of clinical depression in family dementia caregivers approaches 50 percent. Caregivers are also twice as likely to report high levels of emotional distress.”

Caregivers tend to be older themselves, leading to what Lavretsky calls an “impaired resilience” to stress and an increased rate of cardiovascular disease and mortality.

Experts have surmised that psychosocial interventions like meditation reduce the adverse effects of caregiver stress on physical and mental health. However, the pathways by which such psychosocial interventions impact biological processes are poorly understood.

In the study, the participants were randomized into two groups. The meditation group was taught the 12-minute yogic practice that included Kirtan Kriya, which was performed every day at the same time for eight weeks.

The other group was asked to relax in a quiet place with their eyes closed while listening to instrumental music on a relaxation CD, also for 12 minutes daily for eight weeks. Blood samples were taken at the beginning of the study and again at the end of the eight weeks.

“The goal of the study was to determine if meditation might alter the activity of inflammatory and antiviral proteins that shape immune cell gene expression,” said Lavretsky. “Our analysis showed a reduced activity of those proteins linked directly to increased inflammation.

“This is encouraging news. Caregivers often don’t have the time, energy, or contacts that could bring them a little relief from the stress of taking care of a loved one with dementia, so practicing a brief form of yogic meditation, which is easy to learn, is a useful too.”

Source: UCLA

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Keep the TV or Computer on At Night? You’re at Greater Risk for Depression


Keep the TV or Computer on At Night? You are at Greater Risk for DepressionIf hamsters are anything like their human counterparts, keeping your TV or computer on at night while you sleep in the same room could not only disrupt your sleep — it could lead to clinical depression.

Any kind of light in your bedroom — a streetlight, a TV, likely even a nightlight — may lead to the depressive symptoms, if exposed to such light for at least a month.

While hamsters exposed to light at night for four weeks showed evidence of depressive symptoms, those symptoms essentially disappeared after about two weeks if they returned to normal lighting conditions.

Even changes in the brain that occurred after hamsters lived with chronic light at night reversed themselves after returning to a more normal light cycle.

These findings add to the growing evidence that suggest chronic exposure to artificial light at night may play some role in the rising rates of depression in humans during the past 50 years, said Tracy Bedrosian, lead author of the study and doctoral student in neuroscience at Ohio State University.

The good news is that the effects of sleep loss are readily reversed with some normal, completely-dark sleep. Use your TV’s sleep timer function to turn it off after you go to sleep. Shut down your computer before going to bed.

This study is the latest in a series out of Nelson’s lab that have linked chronic exposure to light at night to depression and obesity in animal models.

The new study found that one particular protein found in the brain of hamsters — and humans — may play a key role in how light at night leads to depression.

They found that blocking effects of that protein, called tumor necrosis factor, prevented the development of depressive-like symptoms in hamsters even when they were exposed to light at night.

The study involved two experiments using female Siberian hamsters, which had their ovaries removed to ensure that hormones produced in the ovary would not interfere with the results.

In the first experiment, half of the hamsters spent eight weeks in a standard light-dark cycle of 16 hours of light (150 lux) and 8 hours of total darkness each day. The other half spent the first four weeks with 16 hours of normal daylight (150 lux) and 8 hours of dim light — 5 lux, or the equivalent of having a television on in a darkened room.

Then, these hamsters were moved back to a standard light cycle for either one week, two weeks or four weeks before testing began.

They were then given a variety of behavior tests. Results showed that hamsters exposed to chronic dim light at night showed less total activity during their active period each day when compared to those in standard lighting conditions.

Those hamsters exposed to dim light also showed greater depressive symptoms than did the others– such as less interest in drinking sugar water that they usually enjoy.

But within two weeks of returning to a standard light cycle, hamsters exposed to dim night light showed no more depressive-like symptoms than did hamsters that always had standard lighting. In addition, they returned to normal activity levels.

After the behavioral testing, the hamsters were sacrificed and the researchers studied a part of their brains called the hippocampus, which plays a key role in depressive disorders.

Findings showed that hamsters exposed to dim light showed a variety of changes associated with depression.

Most importantly, hamsters that lived in dim light showed increased expression of the gene that produces tumor necrosis factor. TNF is one of a large family of proteins called cytokines — chemical messengers that are mobilized when the body is injured or has an infection. These cytokines cause inflammation in their effort to repair an injured or infected area of the body. However, this inflammation can be damaging when it is constant, as happens in hamsters exposed to dim light at night.

“Researchers have found a strong association in people between chronic inflammation and depression,” said Nelson, who is a member of Ohio State’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.

“That’s why it is very significant that we found this relationship between dim light at night and increased expression of TNF.”

In addition, results showed that hamsters that lived in dim light had a significantly reduced density of dendritic spines — hairlike growths on brain cells which are used to send chemical messages from one cell to another.

Changes such as this have been linked to depression, Bedrosian said.

However, hamsters that were returned to a standard light-dark cycle after four weeks of dim light at night saw their TNF levels and even their density of dendritic spines return essentially to normal.

“Changes in dendritic spines can happen very rapidly in response to environmental factors,” Bedrosian said.

In a second experiment, the researchers tested just how important TNF might be. Results showed that hamsters exposed to dim light at night did not show any more depressive-like symptoms than standard-light hamsters if they were given XPro1595. However, the drug did not seem to prevent the reduction of dendritic spine density in hamsters exposed to dim light.

These results provide further evidence of the role TNF may play in the depressive symptoms seen in hamsters exposed to dim light. But the fact that XPro1595 did not affect dendritic spine density means that more needs to be learned about exactly how TNF works, Nelson said.

Source: Ohio State University

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Animal Study Suggests New Class of Antioxidants May Be Beneficial for Parkinson’s


Animal Study Suggests New Class of Antioxidants May Be Beneficial for Parkinson’s A new powerful class of antioxidants may provide relief from Parkinson’s in the future.

The medication, called synthetic triterpenoids, blocked development of Parkinson’s disease in an animal model.

The trial is discussed in the journal Antioxidants & Redox Signaling , as authored by Dr. Bobby Thomas, a neuroscientist at the Medical College of Georgia.

Thomas and his colleagues were able to block the death of dopamine-producing brain cells that occurs in Parkinson’s by using the drugs to bolster Nrf2, a natural antioxidant and inflammation fighter.

Researchers know that stressors from a variety of sources, be it trauma, insect bites or the simple aging process increases oxidative stress causing the body to respond with inflammation — as a part of the natural healing process.

“This creates an environment in your brain that is not conducive for normal function,” Thomas said.

“You can see the signs of oxidative damage in the brain long before the neurons actually degenerate in Parkinson’s.”

Nrf2, the master regulator of oxidative stress and inflammation, is – inexplicably – significantly decreased early in Parkinson’s. In fact, Nrf2 activity declines normally with age.

“In Parkinson’s patients you can clearly see a significant overload of oxidative stress, which is why we chose this target,” Thomas said. “We used drugs to selectively activate Nrf2.”

Researchers looked at a number of antioxidants already under study for a wide range of diseases from kidney failure to heart disease and diabetes, and found triterpenoids to be the most effective on Nrf2.

Co-author Dr. Michael Sporn, Professor of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Medicine at Dartmouth Medical School, chemically modified the agents so they could permeate the protective blood-brain barrier.

Researchers found that in both human neuroblastoma and mouse brain cells they were able to document an increase in Nrf2 in response to the synthetic triterpenoids.

Their preliminary evidence indicates the synthetic triterpenoids also increase Nrf2 activity in astrocytes, a brain cell type which nourishes neurons and hauls off some of their garbage.

The drugs didn’t protect brain cells in an animal where the Nrf2 gene was deleted, more proof that that Nrf2 is the drugs’ target.

Researchers are now studying the impact of synthetic triterpenoids in an animal model genetically programmed to acquire PD slowly, as humans do.

Source: Medical College of Georgia

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Multi-Tasking Competence Varies with Tasks, Often Over-estimated


Multi-Tasking Competence Varies with Tasks, Often Over-estimatedMost have heard the warnings that multi-tasking is inefficient, ineffective and may be dangerous, then go ahead and do it anyway.

A new study qualifies the general disclaimers that some types of multi-tasking are more dangerous than others.

For example, trying to do two visual tasks at once hurt performance in both tasks significantly more than combining a visual and an audio task, the research found.

Researchers also discovered that people who tried to do two visual tasks at the same time rated their performance as better than did those who combined a visual and an audio task — even though their actual performance was worse.

“Many people have this overconfidence in how well they can multitask, and our study shows that this particularly is the case when they combine two visual tasks,” said Zheng Wang, lead author of the study.

“People’s perception about how well they’re doing doesn’t match up with how they actually perform.”

The study appears in a recent issue of the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

Researchers used eye-tracking technology to show that people’s gaze moved around much more when they had two visual tasks compared to a visual and an audio task. Additionally, they spent much less time fixated on any one task.

That suggests distracted visual attention, Wang said.

In the study, participants who were performing two visual tasks were asked to complete a pattern-matching puzzle on a computer screen while giving walking directions to another person using instant messaging (IM) software.

Those who combined a visual and an audio task tried to complete the same pattern-matching task on the screen while giving voice directions using audio chat.

The two multitasking scenarios used in this study can be compared to those drivers may face, Wang said.

People who try to text while they are driving are combining two mostly visual tasks, she said. People who talk on a phone while driving are combining a visual and an audio task.

“They’re both dangerous, but as both our behavioral performance data and eyetracking data suggest, texting is more dangerous to do while driving than talking on a phone, which is not a surprise,” Wang said.

“But what is surprising is that our results also suggest that people may perceive that texting is not more dangerous – they may think they can do a good job at two visual tasks at one time.”

In the study 32 college students sat at computer screens and were asked to complete a matching task in which they saw two grids on the screen, each with nine cells containing random letters or numbers.

They had to determine, as quickly as possible, whether the two grids were a “match” or “mismatch” by clicking a button on the screen. They were told to complete as many trials as possible within two minutes.

After testing the participants on the matching task with no distractions, the researchers had the students repeat the matching task while giving walking directions to a fellow college student, “Jennifer,” who they were told needed to get to an important job interview.

Participants had to help “Jennifer” get to her interview within six minutes. In fact, “Jennifer” was a trained confederate experimenter. She has been trained to interact with participants in a realistic but scripted way to ensure the direction task was kept as similar as possible across all participants.

For this part of the task, half of the participants used instant messaging software (Google Chat) to type directions while the other half used voice chat (Google Talk with headphones and an attached microphone) to help “Jennifer” reach her destination.

Results showed that multitasking, of any kind, seriously hurt performance.

Researchers found that in the group that gave audio directions performance in visual pattern-matching dropped by 30 percent drop in visual pattern-matching performance.

Participants who used instant messaging did even worse — they had a 50 percent drop in pattern-matching performance.

Interestingly, although those who gave audio directions completed more steps in the directions task than did those who used IM, when asked to rate themselves, those that gave IM gave themselves higher ratings that those who used audio chat.

“They’re both dangerous, but as both our behavioral performance data and eyetracking data suggest, texting is more dangerous to do while driving than talking on a phone.”

“It may be that those using IM felt more in control because they could respond when they wanted without being hurried by a voice in their ears,” Wang said.

“Also, processing several streams of information in the visual channel may give people the illusion of efficiency. They may perceive visual tasks as relatively effortless, which may explain the tendency to combine tasks like driving and texting.”

Eye-tracking results from the study showed that people paid much less attention to the matching task when they were multitasking, Wang said. As expected, the results were worse for those who used IM than for those who used voice chat.

Overall, the percentage of eye fixations on the matching-task grids declined from 76 percent when that was the participants’ only task to 33 percent during multitasking.

Fixations on the grid task decreased by 53 percent for those using IM and a comparatively better 35 percent for those who used voice chat.

“When people are using IM, their visual attention is split much more than when they use voice chat,” she said.

These results suggest we need to teach media and multitasking literacy to young people before they start driving, Wang said.

“Our results suggest many people may believe they can effectively text and drive at the same time, and we need to make sure young people know that is not true.”

In addition, the findings show that technology companies need to be aware of how people respond to multitasking when they are designing products.

For example, these results suggest GPS voice guidance should be preferred over image guidance because people are more effective when they combine visual with aural tasks compared to two visual tasks.

“We need to design media environments that emphasize processing efficiency and activity safety. We can take advantage of the fact that we do better when we can use visual and audio components rather than two visual components,” Wang said.

Source: Ohio State University

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

OOAworld

Travel, Art, Stories, Photos, Stories, Film, Videos, Animation, Drawings, Writing

cancer killing recipe

Just another WordPress.com site

Blah Blah Blog

You'll thank me later

Psychological Espresso

A regular shot of psychological thought

NOM's adventures

NOM's journey through this awesome thing called life

Psychie blog

just awesome blog on mental health

Mirth and Motivation

Motivate. Elevate. Laugh and Live Positively!

Russel Ray Photos

Life from Southern California, mostly San Diego County

The Sunset Blog

Inspirational sunset & nature photos by Psychic healer Eva Tenter

Wisdom is Found Through Experience

le Silence de Sion © 2012-2014

Ray Ferrer - Emotion on Canvas

** OFFICIAL Site of Artist Ray Ferrer **

Bucket List Publications

Indulge- Travel, Adventure, & New Experiences

Quiet Mystic

Meditative and divinatory support for introverts

Jesus’ Wedding

An Integrated Theory of the Twin Paths of the Spiritual Journey that lead to Inner Transformation by using Symbolism, Myth, and Parable.

Belle Grove Plantation Bed and Breakfast

Birthplace of James Madison and Southern Plantation

RHF INDIA

We Teach People to Live A Real Natural Life.

Manipal's Photo Blog

Because a picture paints a thousand words