Posts Tagged Personality

How Drugs for Schizophrenia Sow Seeds of Resistance


How Drugs for Schizophrenia Sow Seeds of ResistanceA new study has identified why certain drugs have mixed success in treating schizophrenia; effective at first, but with chronic administration becoming less and less so.

In the study, reported online in the journal Nature Neuroscience, scientists investigated the external genetic reasons (called epigenetic factors) that cause treatment-resistance to atypical antipsychotic drugs.

Use of antipsychotic drugs is the standard of care for schizophrenia. Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine report that 30 percent of individuals with schizophrenia do not respond to currently available treatments.

Researchers discovered that, over time, an enzyme in the brains of schizophrenic patients, analyzed at autopsy, begins to compensate for the prolonged chemical changes caused by antipsychotics, resulting in reduced efficacy of the drugs.

“These results are groundbreaking because they show that drug resistance may be caused by the very medications prescribed to treat schizophrenia, when administered chronically,” said Javier Gonzalez-Maeso, Ph.D., lead investigator on the study.

Researchers found that an enzyme called HDAC2 was highly expressed in the brain of mice chronically treated with antipsychotic drugs, resulting in lower expression of the receptor called mGlu2 and a recurrence of psychotic symptoms. A similar finding was observed in the postmortem brains of schizophrenic patients.

In response, the research team administered a chemical called suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA), which inhibits the entire family of HDACs. This treatment prevented the detrimental effect of the antipsychotic called clozapine on mGlu2 expression, and also improved the therapeutic effects of atypical antipsychotics in mouse models.

Previous research conducted by the team showed that chronic treatment with the antipsychotic clozapine causes repression of mGlu2 expression in the frontal cortex of mice, a brain area key to cognition and perception.

The researchers hypothesized that this effect of clozapine on mGlu2 may play a crucial role in restraining the therapeutic effects of antipsychotic drugs.

“We had previously found that chronic antipsychotic drug administration causes biochemical changes in the brain that may limit the therapeutic effects of these drugs,”said Gonzalez-Maeso. “We wanted to identify the molecular mechanism responsible for this biochemical change, and explore it as a new target for new drugs that enhance the therapeutic efficacy of antipsychotic drugs.”

Mitsumasa Kurita, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at Mount Sinai and the lead author of the study, said, “We found that atypical antipsychotic drugs trigger an increase of HDAC2 in the frontal cortex of individuals with schizophrenia, which then reduces the presence of mGlu2, and thereby limits the efficacy of these drugs.”

As a result of these findings, Gonzalez-Maeso’s team is now developing compounds that specifically inhibit HDAC2 as adjunctive treatments to antipsychotics.

Source:The Mount Sinai Hospital/Mount Sinai School of Medicine

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Overconfidence Drives Social Status, Even When Unfounded


Overconfidence Drives Social Status, Even When UnfoundedBelieving that you are cool, hip, talented, clever, and better than most, may lead to admiration and prestige, and, unfortunately, detrimental consequences.

In a new study, scientists came to the conclusion that individuals develop a cocky self-perception as a means to enhance social status.

Researchers have long known that many people are frequently overconfident — that they tend to believe they are more physically talented, socially adept, and skilled at their job than they actually are.

Investigators also say that overconfidence can often have a detrimental effect on an individual’s performance and decision-making.

Still the allure of social status promotes overconfidence, said Cameron Anderson, Ph.D.,  a co-author of the study, to be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

“Our studies found that overconfidence helped people attain social status. People who believed they were better than others, even when they weren’t, were given a higher place in the social ladder. And the motive to attain higher social status thus spurred overconfidence,” said Anderson.

Experts say that social status is the respect, prominence, and influence individuals enjoy in the eyes of others.

Within work groups, for example, higher status individuals tend to be more admired, listened to, and have more sway over the group’s discussions and decisions.

Researchers say these “alphas” of the group have more clout and prestige than other members. Anderson believes the new findings are important because they help shed light on a longstanding puzzle: why overconfidence is so common, in spite of its risks.

In the study Anderson found that falsely believing one is better than others has profound social benefits for the individual. Moreover, these findings suggest one reason why in organizational settings, incompetent people are so often promoted over their more competent peers.

“In organizations, people are very easily swayed by others’ confidence even when that confidence is unjustified,” Anderson said. “Displays of confidence are given an inordinate amount of weight.”

In fact, the researchers say that organizations would benefit from taking individuals’ confidence with a grain of salt. Yes, confidence can be a sign of a person’s actual abilities, but it is often not a very good sign.

In the study, the authors conducted six experiments to measure why people become overconfident and how overconfidence equates to a rise in social stature. For example:

In one of the experiments, researchers examined 242 MBA students in their project teams and asked them to look over a list of historical names, historical events, and books and poems, and then to identify which ones they knew or recognized.

Terms included Maximilien Robespierre, Lusitania, Wounded Knee, Pygmalion, and Doctor Faustus. Unbeknownst to the participants, some of the names were made up.

These so-called “foils” included Bonnie Prince Lorenzo, Queen Shaddock, Galileo Lovano, Murphy’s Last Ride, and Windemere Wild. The researchers deemed those who picked the most foils the most overly confident because they believed they were more knowledgeable than they actually were.

In a survey at the end of the semester, those same overly confident individuals (who said they had recognized the most foils) achieved the highest social status within their groups.

It is important to note that group members did not think of their high status peers as overconfident, but simply that they were terrific.

“This overconfidence did not come across as narcissistic,” said Anderson. “The most overconfident people were considered the most beloved.”

Another experiment sought to discover the types of behaviors that make overconfident people appear to be so wonderful (even when they were not).

Behaviors such as body language, vocal tone, rates of participation were captured on video as groups worked together in a laboratory setting.

These videos revealed that overconfident individuals spoke more often, spoke with a confident vocal tone, provided more information and answers, and acted calmly and relaxed as they worked with their peers. In fact, overconfident individuals were more convincing in their displays of ability than individuals who were actually highly competent.

“These big participators were not obnoxious, they didn’t say, ‘I’m really good at this.’ Instead, their behavior was much more subtle. They simply participated more and exhibited more comfort with the task – even though they were no more competent than anyone else,” Anderson said.

Two final studies found that it is the “desire” for status that encourages people to be more overconfident.

For example, in Study 6, participants read one of two stories and were asked to imagine themselves as the protagonist in the story. The first story was a simple, bland narrative of losing then finding one’s keys.

The second story asked the reader to imagine him/herself getting a new job with a prestigious company. The job had many opportunities to obtain higher status, including a promotion, a bonus, and a fast track to the top. Those participants who read the new job scenario rated their desire for status much higher than those who read the story of the lost keys.

After they were finished reading, participants were asked to rate themselves on a number of competencies such as critical thinking skills, intelligence, and the ability to work in teams.

Those who had read the new job story (which stimulated their desire for status) rated their skills and talent much higher than did the first group. Their desire for status amplified their overconfidence.

So, if overconfidence is a natural tendency for some, how can individuals recognize that this may be a potential flaw rather than an asset?

Anderson and other members of the research team believe their study will give people the incentive to look for more objective displays of ability and merit in others, instead of overvaluing unsubstantiated confidence.

Source: University of California – Berkeley Haas School of Business

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Challenges of Co-Parenting


Challenges of Co-ParentingDivorce frequently brings the challenge of how best to raise the kids. In today’s environment, it is common for both ex-spouses to share legal and physical custody of children after divorcing.

However, few studies have looked at the process of co-parenting, so little is known about how divorced parents negotiate the co-parenting process. A new study identifies factors that influence the success of co-parenting.

Researchers from Kansas State University discovered that the type of relationship a woman has with her ex-partner is a factor in how the couple shares custody of children.

Investigators followed divorced or separated mothers who were sharing physical custody of their children with their former partners.

Mindy Markham, Ph.D., an assistant professor of family studies and human services divided the study group into three patterns of co-parenting — continuously contentious, always amicable and bad to better.

Markham also looked at additional negative and positive factors that influenced the mothers’ co-parenting relationships.

The study included 20 predominately white, well-educated women between the ages of 26 to 49 who were divorced or separated from the father of their children.

The mothers, from two Midwestern states, shared with their former partners legal and physical custody of the children, who ranged in age from 21 months to 12 years.

At the time of the study, the couples had been separated or divorced from six months to 12 years.

“The findings of this study suggest that shared physical custody relationships are dynamic and can vary greatly,” Markham said.

In current study, nine mothers (45 percent) had continuously contentious co-parenting relationships with their ex-partners from the time of separation to the present.

This stressful negative relationship fueled the mother’s perception of her ex’s parenting abilities; financial concerns, including the ex not having a job or not paying child support; control or abuse by the ex-partner; and the inability of the ex to separate marital — or personal — issues from the co-parenting relationship.

“All mothers in this type of co-parenting relationship reported differences in parenting styles and were concerned with how the ex was raising the children,” Markham said.

“Parenting practices that concerned the mothers varied greatly and included putting children in harmful situations, not bathing the children, not disciplining them and having no rules or routines.

“It was especially difficult for these mothers to share custody with ex-partners who were uninvolved during the marriage. They didn’t believe their exes were responsible parents.”

Markham said eight of the women in the continuously contentious relationships didn’t want to share custody of the children with their ex-partner, but most were told by lawyers or the court that they would have to do so.

Twenty percent of mothers reported an amicable co-parenting relationship — where they reported always getting along with their ex-partners from separation to the present.

In this form of relationship the mothers believed their ex-partners were responsible parents, money wasn’t a source of conflict and the mothers chose to share physical custody.

Seven of the mothers in the study (35 percent) had bad-to-better co-parenting relationships, where co-parenting was contentious at the time of separation, but greatly improved over time.

At the time of the study, these women’s relationships were similar to those of women with always amicable relationships. These mothers wanted to share physical custody, thought the father was a responsible parent and most said money was not a source of conflict.

Significantly, all mothers in bad-to-better relationships said they were unable to co-parent amicably with their ex-partner in the beginning because personal issues were not kept separate from parenting responsibility.

“Although ex-partners with bad-to-better relationships originally allowed their feelings about one another to negatively affect their co-parenting, at some point they realized this was not beneficial and made a conscious effort to change the relationship for the sake of their children,” Markham said.

Being able to communicate with the ex-partner is a major factor during co-parenting. In the always amicable and bad-to-better relationships, mothers were able to communicate well with ex-partners.

The ability to communicate with the ex-partner made discussing differences in parenting styles easier, reported this group of women.

However, for women in continuously contentious relationships, lack of communication was a big issue, Markham said.

These mothers limited direct in-person or phone communication with their ex, preferring alternative methods like texting or email. They also avoided seeing their ex in person when it came time to exchange children by having them picked up at day care or school.

Markham said she was surprised by the level of animosity that accompanies shared custody, at least from some mothers’ perceptions.

“Nearly half of the mothers in this study continue to have conflicted relationships with their ex-partners, and conversations with these women negate the notion that shared physical custody ensures cooperative, less conflicted relationships,” she said.

“This study can be important for helping professionals recognize that shared physical custody is not a panacea for postdivorce problems — and that in some cases it exacerbates them.”

Source: Kansas State University

Parents arguing while child covrs his ears photo by shutterstock.

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Appreciative Teens Are Happier, Healthier


Appreciative Teens Are Happier, HealthierTeenagers possessing traits of cooperation, purpose, creativity and persistence are more likely to be happy, and less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol or have behavioral problems at school.

In a new study, psychologists say the cluster of positive traits, or gratitude, is critical for adolescent mental health.

“Gratitude played an important role in many areas of positive mental health of the teens in our study,” said lead author Giacomo Bono, Ph.D., psychology professor at California State University.

“Increases in gratitude over a four-year period were significantly related to improvements in life satisfaction, happiness, positive attitudes and hope.”

Researchers studied the development of gratefulness by asking 700 students, ages 10 to 14, to complete questionnaires in their classroom at the beginning of the study and four years later.

After four years, researchers compared the results of the least grateful 20 percent of the students with the most grateful 20 percent.

This analysis showed that teens with the most gratitude by the end of the four-year period had:

  • Gained 15 percent more of a sense of meaning in their life;
  • Become 15 percent more satisfied with their life overall (at home, at school, with their neighborhood, with their friends and with themselves);
  • Become 17 percent more happy and more hopeful about their lives;
  • Experienced a 13 percent drop in negative emotions and a 15 percent drop in depressive symptoms.

Researchers found that teens with low gratitude at the start of the study could still benefit if they developed more gratitude over the four-year period.

“They experienced many of the same improvements in well-being. Moreover, they showed slight reductions overall in delinquency, such as alcohol and drug use, cheating on exams, skipping school, detention and administrative discipline,” Bono said.

“For instance, the top 10 percent of those who developed the most gratitude showed 9 percent less delinquency than the bottom 10 percent in gratitude growth.”

For the purposes of the study, the authors defined grateful teens as having a disposition and moods that enabled them to respond positively to the good people and things in their lives, Bono said.

The four-year study took place in New York with a sample that was 54 percent girls, 67 percent white, 11 percent Asian-American, 10 percent African-American, 1.4 percent Hispanic, 9 percent other and 1.6 percent no response.

“These findings suggest that gratitude may be strongly linked with life skills such as cooperation, purpose, creativity and persistence and, as such, gratitude is vital resource that parents, teachers and others who work with young people should help youth build up as they grow up,” Bono said.

“More gratitude may be precisely what our society needs to raise a generation that is ready to make a difference in the world.”

Source: American Psychological Association

Happy teenager photo by shutterstock.

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Playfulness Plays Role in Attracting a Mate


Playfulness Plays Role in Attracting a Mate  New research finds that playfulness and a sense of humor are important traits sought in romantic partners.

Researchers at Penn State University liken playful behavior and a sense of humor to bright plumage on birds to attract a mate.

“Humans and other animals exhibit a variety of signals as to their value as mates,” said professor Garry Chick.

“Just as birds display bright plumage or coloration, men may attract women by showing off expensive cars or clothing. In the same vein, playfulness in a male may signal to females that he is nonaggressive and less likely to harm them or their offspring. A woman’s playfulness, on the other hand, may signal her youth and fertility.”

Chick and his colleagues expanded on a previous survey that included a list of 13 possible characteristics that individuals seek in prospective mates. To the original list, they added three new traits: “playful,” “sense of humor” and “fun-loving.” The authors gave the survey to 164 male and 89 female undergraduate students, ages 18 to 26.

Of the 16 items, “sense of humor,” “fun-loving” and “playful” ranked second, third and fourth, respectively, among traits that females sought in males. Males rated three traits — “physically attractive,” “healthy,” and “good heredity,” all characteristics of female fertility — significantly higher than women.

“The fact that the subjects tended to rank ‘sense of humor,’ ‘fun-loving’ and ‘playful’ at or near the top of the list of 16 characteristics does not mean that the mates they have selected or will select will actually exhibit these traits,” said Chick.

“In addition, the results may be skewed by the fact that most of the study subjects were college students from a Western culture. Despite these caveats, it seems to us that signaling one’s virtues as a potential long-term mate through playfulness is not far-fetched. Our results suggest that adult playfulness may result from sexual selection and signal positive qualities to potential long-term mates.”

Source: Penn State

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Colleges Gear Up to Help Students with ADHD


Colleges Gear Up to Help Students with ADHDSummer is winding down and colleges are ramping up for a new influx of recent high school graduates.

Given the steady increase in students diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), some colleges are proactively developing programs to help the student make a successful transition to college.

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, affects 1 to 4 percent of college students, according to national studies. For freshmen with ADHD, the transition to college can be especially difficult.

Many previous studies have shown ADHD among college students can be a serious disorder that is an everyday struggle.

Kristy Morgan, a recent Kansas State University doctoral graduate in student affairs and higher education, studied how students with ADHD make the transition from high school to college.

“Nobody had really studied the transition from high school to college,” Morgan said.

“Transitions can be the toughest time for people. This can be especially true when the transition is from the home environment where parents have been involved in daily plans, schedules and medication.”

“Kristy’s research is an important contribution to understanding and facilitating the transition to college for students with ADHD,” said Kenneth Hughey.

“The results and the recommendations that followed are intended to help students with ADHD make a successful transition, their parents as they support their children in the transition, and student affairs professionals who work with the students once they are on campus.”

In her small exploratory study, Morgan interviewed eight freshmen — four men and four women — to talk about their transition during their first semester of college. The freshmen were all living on campus and were at least an hour away from home.

Morgan found a common thread among these students with attention deficit disorder was a failure to adequately plan their college transition.

The students did not factor ADHD into their decision-making about college, but rather chose a college based on how the campus felt, the reputation of the school or that it was where they had always wanted to attend.

“Most of the students found college to be tougher than they had expected,” Morgan said. “Even with the availability of resources, they still felt overwhelmed with accessing these resources.”

Morgan found that preplanning was a significant factor for success. Students who had established an ADHD management strategies — such as ways to keep a schedule or study for tests were able to adjust to the new college life — while students who did not have strategies in place before they went to college, felt overwhelmed.

“A big struggle for students was adjusting to increased freedom and increased responsibility,” Morgan said.

“They anticipated loving the freedom of college and being away from their parents. But they also realized that college required responsibility and that responsibility was overwhelming to them.”

Morgan was amazed to find that parents were very involved in the transition from home to college. She discovered that some parents were instrumental for students’ college activities — they served as alarm clocks, organized their rooms and continued to manage medical care.

“The parents filled prescriptions and contacted doctors even while the student was at college, which was surprising to me,” Morgan said. “The students really did not handle it independently.”

Morgan discovered the reliance on parents became a negative as students often lacked basic knowledge of ADHD and how their medication worked. However, students did understand that medication was crucial to their success in college because they needed it to help focus during lectures and studying time.

“There were some students who took medication sporadically prior to college,” Morgan said. “They realized that to be successful in college, their medication moved from optional to mandatory.”

Morgan discovered that side effects influenced how often students took medication. For example, some students would not take medication because they felt it made them not as fun in social situations.

The women in the study were more likely to consistently take medication because it helped suppress their appetites and manage weight. The men were more likely to skip their medication to have a good time.

Helping Students with ADHD

The findings suggest that a combined effort between families, students and the university staff is needed to help students with ADHD adjust and succeed in college.

Morgan has developed the following recommendations for universities and families to support college students who have ADHD:

  • Families should inform students about their diagnoses. All too often, families have not educated students with ADHD because they think it might be just a childhood condition that they will outgrow.
  • Universities can streamline processes and make it easier for students to access resources. Students with ADHD are not likely to wait in long lines or fill out a lot of paperwork for resources.
  • Academic advisers can help students carefully structure their schedules for success. Many students with ADHD benefit when classes are scheduled close to each other, rather than spread out during an entire day. Advisers can also help students schedule classes with engaging professors and in rooms that have few distractions, such as windows or high-traffic hallways.

Source: Kansas State University

Young college student with books photo by shutterstock.

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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

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