Staying Wakeful and Relaxed

We have invented gadgets to help remember things, people, and events. But technology has its limits. We’ve also developed mental technique to bolster our memory by training and challenging our mind to remember and retain mass amounts of information – cross word puzzles, Sudoku, breathing routines, regular exercises, and myriad of stress relieving techniques are abound.

A study by Michaela Dewar and her colleagues discovered a simple, yet powerful practice that helps memory last over a long term.

“All they really need to do to cement new learning is to sit and close their eyes for a few minutes.” Dewar and her colleagues show that memory can be boosted by taking a brief wakeful rest after learning something verbally new and that memory lasts not just immediately but over a longer term.

Dewar explains that there is growing evidence to suggest that the point at which we experience new information is “just at a very early stage of memory formation and that further neural processes have to occur after this stage for us to be able to remember this information at a later point in time.” The process of consolidating memories takes a little time and the most important things that it needs are peace and quiet.

The best part of this study is not the discovery that peaceful and quiet time helps increase our memory’s capacity, but the fact that this technique has already been practiced from time immemorial by our ancient civilizations. For instance, taking brief periods of time off from the stressful chores of the day and dedicating a few minutes to meditation rejuvenates our mind – giving our mind some quiet time where it can process the information.

It appears that we might be re-inventing the wheel when it comes to mind-healthy techniques and practices. Still not convinced that meditation techniques bolsters memory? Benefits of meditation is not a mere belief or a myth anymore. We all wonder if there is any evidence to support it outside of our own minds. With scientific advancement, we now have evidence to prove it. Here is one for you:

Professor Jim Lagopoulos of Sydney University, Australia, the lead researcher of the joint study between his university and researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). According to this meditation research, electrical brain waves suggest that mental activity during meditation is wakeful and relaxed.

“This default activity of the brain is often underestimated. It probably represents a kind of mental processing that connects various experiences and emotional residues, puts them into perspective…”

A mind that is wakeful and relaxed is the key here.

This practice of letting your brain rest for brief periods spread over two or three times a day gives your brain some time to better process the information it receives throughout the day. Now we know that there is a purpose to those rituals and practices that our ancestors laid down in our traditions. In the name of scientific advancement and modernization, we tend to dismiss some of the beneficial techniques our ancestors have shown us. So, the next time you dismiss a ritual or practice as nonsense or absurd, try to see the logic behind it.

“Good” Cholesterol Not So “Good” Afterall

In a new study by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers has found that the commonly called “good” cholesterol,  or the HDL cholesterol may in fact be harmful to your heart. The research studies the effect of two forms of HDL cholesterol present in our body. One of the forms of this “good” cholesterol has a small protein called apoC-III that may have harmful effects than the HDL counterpart that doesn’t have this protein on its surface. The study was published online in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

A high level of HDL cholesterol is strongly predictive of a low incidence of heart disease. But trials of drugs that increase HDL cholesterol have not consistently shown decreases in CHD, leading to the hypothesis that HDL cholesterol may contain both protective and non-protective components. After adjusting for age, smoking status and other dietary and lifestyle cardiovascular risk factors, the researchers found that two different subclasses of HDL have opposite associations with the risk of heart disease in apparently healthy men and women. The major HDL type, which lacks apoC-III, had the expected heart-protective association with heart disease. But the small fraction (13%) of HDL cholesterol that has apoC-III present on its surface was paradoxically associated with a higher, not lower, risk of future CHD.

This means that you should not automatically assume that higher amount of “good” cholesterol is always good for your heart. Unless you measure the ‘better’ part of your ‘good’ cholesterol, you cannot conclude that all good cholesterol is in fact good for you.

You should not automatically assume that higher amount of “good” cholesterol is always good for your heart.

Source: This information is produced with editorial adaptations from Press Release by Harvard School of Public Health

Prosthetic Retina Restores Sight to Blind

Finally, good news for those whose sight is affected by Macular Degeneration, a common cause of blindness in elderly.

Researchers from the University of Strathclyde and Stanford University in California are creating a prosthetic retina for patients of age related macular degeneration (AMD), which affects one in 500 patients aged between 55 and 64 and one in eight aged over 85.

The device would be simpler in design and operation than existing models. It acts by electrically stimulating neurons in the retina, which are left relatively unscathed by the effects of AMD while other ‘image capturing’ cells, known as photoreceptors, are lost.

It would use video goggles to deliver energy and images directly to the eye and be operated remotely via pulsed near infra-red light- unlike most prosthetic retinas, which are powered through coils that require complex surgery to be implanted.

The prosthetic retina is a thin silicon device that converts pulsed near infra-red light to electrical current that stimulates the retina and elicits visual perception. It requires no wires and would make surgical implantation simpler.

The device has been shown to produce encouraging responses in initial lab tests and is reported in an article published in Nature Photonics. The technology is now being developed further.

This information is reproduced with editorial adaptation from Press Release by University of Strathclyde. Click here for complete story.

What is Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration, or age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 and older. It is a disease that destroys your sharp, central vision. You need central vision to see objects clearly and to do tasks such as reading and driving.

AMD affects the macula, the part of the eye that allows you to see fine detail. It does not hurt, but it causes cells in the macula to die. In some cases, AMD advances so slowly that people notice little change in their vision. In others, the disease progresses faster and may lead to a loss of vision in both eyes. Regular comprehensive eye exams can detect macular degeneration before the disease causes vision loss. Treatment can slow vision loss. It does not restore vision.

Source: MedlinePluse

Low-Income Moms Under Stress May Overfeed Infants

Efforts to prevent obesity among low-income infants should focus not only on what babies are being fed but also the reasons behind unhealthy feeding practices, according to a study to be presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Boston.

Adding cereal to bottles is one unhealthy practice that is discouraged by the American Academy of Pediatrics because it may lead to overfeeding and excess weight gain in infants.

Researchers sought to determine factors associated with putting cereal in bottles among low-income, primarily Latino households in which the risk for child obesity is high.

Mothers of 254 infants were asked if they ever added cereal to bottles to help their babies sleep longer or stay full longer. Researchers also collected information on mothers’ age, language, country of origin, marital status, education and income; whether the mother had symptoms of depression; and infants’ age, gender and whether the infant was felt to have strong emotional reactions (a high intensity temperament).

The data were collected as part of the larger Bellevue Project for Early Language, Literacy and Education Success (BELLE Project). Funded by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the BELLE Project is following infants from birth to first grade to study issues related to parenting and child development.

Results showed that 24 percent of mothers put cereal in bottles. Those with depressive symptoms were 15 times more likely to add cereal than mothers who did not have symptoms of depression.

Depression is very common in low-income mothers and makes it more difficult to engage in beneficial parenting practices in general,” said lead author and general academic pediatrics fellow Candice Taylor Lucas, MD, MPH, who also is the Alan Mendelsohn, MD, principal investigator and associate professor of pediatrics, New York University School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital Center. “Our results are especially concerning because they suggest that depressed mothers may be more likely to add cereal to the bottle, which may increase their children’s risk of obesity.”

Data also showed that mothers who were single were significantly more likely to add cereal to bottles. “This suggests that mothers’ support systems and family dynamics may influence feeding practices,” said obesity researcher and fellow investigator Mary Jo Messito, MD, FAAP.

Mothers who felt that their children had intense emotional reactions to daily routines were 12 times more likely to add cereal to bottles.

“Overall, these findings demonstrate that stressors prevalent in low-income households, such as depression, single parenthood and associated infant behavioral challenges, influence feeding practices likely to promote obesity,” Dr. Lucas concluded. “It is important to provide support for parents related to healthy feeding practices if we are to end the epidemic of childhood obesity.”

Source: This information is reproduced with editorial adaptations from a press release issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics. For more information click here. The study was funded by the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education.

Reviewed by:Rajeev Kurapati MD

Younger generation is more tolerant to the ideals that our elders resented

In a recent research, younger generation is found to be more tolerant to many ideals that our elders were opposed to.  For instance, Americans have become more willing to support civil liberties for homosexuals, people who oppose churches and religion, and even those who advocate doing away with elections and letting the military run the country.

“Two things in particular account for this trend: an increase in education and changing attitudes across generations,” said Smith, the author of this report.

College attendance in particular, which has increased in the last 40 years, has prompted people to become more open-minded, he said. In addition, younger generations do not feel the same threat from some of the controversial groups as did their parents.

Smith is author of the NORC report released on Aug. 25, 2011 by NORC at the University of Chicago. The report shows:

  • Support for allowing a “person who is against all churches and religions” to speak rose from 66 percent in 1972 to 76 percent in 2010; approval for teaching rose from 42 percent in 1972 to 60 percent in 2010; and tolerance of having such a book in the library grew from 61 percent in 1972 to 74 percent in 2010.
  • Support for allowing “a person who advocates doing away with elections and letting the military run the country” to speak grew from 55 percent in 1976 to 69 percent in 2010; approval for teaching went from 37 percent in 1976 to 57 percent in 2010; and tolerance of having such a book in the library climbed from 57 percent in 1976 to 71 percent in 2010.
  • Support for allowing an “admitted homosexual” to speak increased from 62 percent in 1972 to 86 percent in 2010; approval for teaching rose from 48 percent in 1973 to 84 percent in 2010; and tolerance of having such a book in the library from 54 percent in 1973 to 78 percent in 2010.

The General Social Survey, conducted for the past 40 years, monitors societal change and the growing complexity of American society. This changing trends in our outlook towards evolving cultures and behavior effects our over all psychological framework and therefore how we interpret the world.

From these studies, it appears that younger generation, in general, seem to be more tolerant to changing life styles and more accepting of the cultural exchange. This means more inter-racial mixing and the resulting offspring.

The cross-cultural intermix will eventually lead to complicated but interesting disease prevention strategies for healthcare providers and social workers. Most of our medical and health related textbooks are currently based on research done on one major race or ethnicity, like Caucasian, African-American, Asian, Hispanic etc. Future medical research will face a newer challenge from intermixing of various races and have to adopt newer research methodologies to cater to these ever evolving cross-cultural human being.

For full Press Release on this study click here

Rock Out: Music Betters Babies

Even before children can walk or talk, musical training benefits the minds of babies according to researchers at McMaster University.

Source: Bangkok Post

They found that one-year-old babies who participate in interactive music classes with their parents smile more, communicate better, and show earlier and more sophisticated brain responses to music.

“Many past studies of musical training have focused on older children,” says Laurel Trainor, director of the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind. “Our results suggest that the infant brain might be particularly plastic with regard to musical exposure.”

“Babies who participated in interactive music classes with their parents showed earlier sensitivity to the pitch structure in music,” says Trainor. “Specifically, they preferred to listen to a version of a piano piece that stayed in key, versus a version that included out-of-key notes. Infants who participated in the passive listening classes did not show the same preferences. Even their brains responded to music differently. Infants from the interactive music classes showed larger and/or earlier brain responses to musical tones.”

Babies from the interactive classes showed better early communication skills, like pointing at objects that are out of reach, or waving goodbye. Socially, these babies also smiled more, were easier to soothe, and showed less distress.

“There are many ways that parents can connect with their babies,” says study coordinator Andrea Unrau. “The great thing about music is, everyone loves it and everyone can learn simple interactive musical games together.”

Source: This information is reproduced with editorial adaptations from a press release issued by the
McMaster University. For more information, click here.

10 Tips for Dealing with Visitors After Having a Baby

Do you feel special when you’re pregnant? Well, step aside, Lady, because a baby is here and people love babies. The dilemma that comes with having this little rock star in your home now is that billions of people will want to come visit it. Some will be helpful some will not. So here are a few handy tips I’ve picked up along the way so you’re able to show your magnificent little miracle off to the world like Simba in the Lion King.

Don’t let anyone stay with you that you can’t cry in front of or you can’t tell to “shutup”

There may be a few people that offer to stay with you when the baby comes. This can be a Godsend or a shitshow. Really think about that person and how much you want them to see behind the curtain. You may be too tired to delicately say, “I know she’s not latching properly but I’m just trying to get the hang of it” and instead say, “See off? You need to fuck right to it!”. Decide carefully about who you want to be around 24/7 when your inner filter isn’t working at full capacity.

Spread out the visitors

People love to see the baby immediately, that, or they feel obliged to see the baby immediately. Either way, try to spread them out as much as you can so you can get settled and enjoy everyone’s company long after the fanfare typically dies down. Try not to book too far in advance either, you seriously may feel great the day after you give birth and feel like a back alley crack whore by week two.

Go to people that you think will over stay their welcome – don’t have them come to you

Sometimes this really isn’t their fault. I was one of these people before I had kids because I had no idea how tiring a newborn can be and would sit there gabbing on about some new bar I’d been to while staring into the vacant doll-like eyes of my best friend holding her newborn. I’m sure she wanted to tell me to shut my cake hole and get the hell out of her house, but just didn’t have the energy. These are the people you should meet for a coffee or go to their place. First of all, newborns are very portable because they eat, sleep and poop and that’s about it, so take advantage of this window when you can cart them anywhere and they don’t care. Secondly, it’s all on your terms when to pull the chute and you won’t have to drop the little hints that go unnoticed. By the way, some of these single people, elderly uncles, etc. are fantastic to be around because they are often just as self absorbed as a newborn and it’s sometimes strangely refreshing to talk about something other than babies.

Put them to work

Some people are just itching to help when you have a baby and you know what, let them. These people are like damn border collies and if you don’t give them a task, they get destructive and are liable to chew the leg off a chair or worse, start throwing stuff out. Let them do dishes, tidy up, clean the bathroom, take out the garbage, take your other kids to the park, whatever. Don’t want them seeing your gross underwear? Throw it in your closet and let them deal with the rest of the pile. Just leave *your* to-do list out and if they ask if they can help, just point them to it and tell them to help themselves if they feel like it. Not everyone is comfortable around babies but really want to help, so give them the satisfaction of doing something for you and just enjoy it and thank them profusely so they don’t start installing a sprinkler system.

Tag team

Remember the first point? That kind of applies to visitors as well. If they aren’t the kind of person you can lose it in front of, then have a buffer person with you to entertain or deflect if you need to pull a batsmoke. Just have these people over when your partner or close relative or friend is around in case you need to excuse yourself for an hour to cry on the bed for no particular reason (I did this…twice).

Partner plays the bad cop

If you think you’re second string to the baby, just imagine how your husband feels. As I mentioned in the New Dad Survival Guide, this is his chance to shine because I can gua-ran-tee you that there will be some tricky situations when visitors come; like the cousin that announces he’s just getting over the flu in passing conversation while holding your 3-day old infant. Or the great Aunt that insists that the baby needs to be brought out in a snow storm to meet her bridge club. Or the nephew that drops by and could “really go for a sandwich”. Dad (or partner, or side kick), it is your job to step up and say, “Oh, hell no.” You know why? Because everybody thinks a protective father is cute and everybody thinks a protective mother is nuts, so do everybody a favour and unhinge. This is also a perfect opportunity for an Al Pacino impression.

Make them bring food

As my friend’s Jamaican grandmother used to say, “Don’t come wid you two long han”. Which loosely translated to don’t be an asshole and show up empty handed. Not only should you stagger these people, but try and get them to bring you food. I featured a brilliant website called MealBaby where people can pick a date where they bring you a meal. Not only do you get a dinner that you don’t have to cook, but you get to decide what dates are available so you can control the flow of people. Have them pop it over or sit down and share it with them, either way, they get a baby fix and you get some lasagna. I say win-win.

Treat it like an Out-of-Office Reply*

Sometimes people think it’s nice to pop in to see how a new mother is doing if they haven’t had an immediate response to a message they left an hour ago. This actually isn’t too bad for the people you can tell to “shut up” because you can tell them if it isn’t a good time and their feelings won’t get hurt. For the rest of the population it is not cool to arrive unannounced at a new parents front door because there is no telling what kind of Stephen King nightmare is going on that day. To avoid these awkward moments, I like to treat it like a vacation. Change your voicemail and your email to let people know you’re kind of off the grid. It may seem like a no brainer to you but some people feel the need to constantly “check in”. Just have an auto-reply that says, “Thanks for your email (call). We’re just getting the hang of parenthood so forgive me if it takes a little longer than usual to get back to you. Don’t worry, we’re just fine and loving every minute of it.” I know this may be a little over the top and may feel like the equivillant of adding the dog’s name to Christmas cards (I love that actually) but it’s an easy way of letting them know they’ve been heard. * Obviously, if you’re alone and live in the woods in wolverine country, disregard this advice and be grateful someone is checking to make sure the cat isn’t eating your corpse.

Pre-Prep

Do you think Aunt Kelly is going to be a problem? Get your responses thought out NOW or start laying the groundwork NOW. If you think she’s going to show up on your doorstep the day you give birth then start telling her the story of a co-workers mother-in-law that showed up the day she gave birth and how awful it was and how you’re so lucky that your family just *gets* that you need a couple of days to settle in. Get an email ready saying, “Aunt Kelly, we can’t wait for you to see the new baby! I’m just getting the hang of it so can I give you a call when I come up for air so you can come over and meet her?” then hit *send* when she fires off the first email.

Go with the flow

Does Aunt Kelly still show up? Does your Mother-in-Law that you’ve never met fly in from the Ukraine and set herself up on your couch? Does your sister drop in everyday to tell you about the disgusting brunch she had or everything about her wicked pilates instructor? Roll with it and save your energy like a solar street light on a dimming switch. Ask Aunt Kelly to hold the baby while you go have a shower. Say “Diakuju” when your mother-in-law makes dinner then go lie down with the baby. Tell your sister she needs a fucking punch in the throat then apologise and blame it on your hormones while savoring the good vent. The best thing you can do with visitors, a new baby, and I suppose life in general, is just roll with it. Even though you are now regarded as the remaining husk that brought this precious, perfect gift into the world – you will be asked how you feel as a courtesy but no one gives much of a shit how you are now so try not to ramble – it’s still your show, honey. So remember, choose your visitors wisely and enjoy the little star that everyone wants to see shine. For more thoughts from Amy Morrison, check out http://www.pregnantchicken.com.

Bullied Children 3 Times More Likely to Self Harm

Children who are bullied in childhood are up to three times more likely to self harm up to the age of 12, a study published in bmj.com suggests.

The authors from King’s College London carried out a study on just over a 1000 pairs of twins at five, seven, 10 and 12 years of age. All children were born in 1994-1995 in England and Wales. The children were assessed on the risks of self-harming in the six months prior to their 12th birthday. Self-harm data was available for 2141 children.

237 children were victims of frequent bullying: 18 (8%) of them self harmed. Of the 1904 who had not been bullied, 44 (2 %) had self harmed.

Approximately one quarter of all school-children in the UK are bullied at some point during their school lives. Victimization is associated with behavioral problems during adolescence, but few studies have tested the assumption that exposure to bullying increases the likelihood that a child will self-harm. The authors hope this study will help to identify those at greatest risk of self-harm.

The authors found that several factors increased the risk of self-harm amongst children who were bullied, including: a family history of self-harming; maltreatment; behavioral and emotional problems. And although the likelihood was slightly higher for girls (1.6%), the association was evident amongst both sexes.

Bullying was defined as when another child: says mean or hurtful things; completely ignores or excludes the victim; hits, kicks or shoves the victim; tells lies or spreads rumors and / or does other hurtful things, all on a frequent basis. Examples of self-harm included: cutting and biting arms; pulling out clumps of hair; banging head against walls; attempted suicides by strangulation.

The authors suggest that while “more effective programs to prevent bullying occurring […] are required”, there should also be efforts in place to help children cope with emotional distress arising from bullying. And although alternative coping strategies should be provided, the effectiveness of these does need to be investigated.

In conclusion, bullying during early years can have damaging consequences by adolescence, especially if children are also exposed to family adversity or have mental-health difficulties. The authors suggest that schools and healthcare professionals should aim to further “reduce bullying and introduce self-harm risk-reduction programs” in order to prevent the risk of bullied children hurting themselves in later life.

This information is reproduced with editorial adaptations from a press release issued by the BMJ-British Medical Journal. For more information click here. The study was funded by the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education.

Reviewed by:Rajeev Kurapati MD

Why Do Certain Bodies React Differently to a High-Fat Diet?

A diet rich in greasy foods causes an imbalance in our gut flora. The composition of the gut flora seems to determine the way in which the body develops certain metabolic disorders such as diabetes, regardless of any genetic modification, gender, age or specific diet. This has recently been demonstrated by Rémy Burcelin and Matteo Serino, researchers from the “Institute of Metabolic and cardiovascular diseases (I2MC)”. It is believed that nutritional additives such as gluco-oligosaccharides and dietary fibers that target the gut microbiota could prevent the development of metabolic disorders.

The composition of the gut flora seems to determine the way in which the body develops certain metabolic disorders such as diabetes, regardless of any genetic modification, gender, age or specific diet.

Gut flora, otherwise knows as gut microbiota, are the bacteria that live in our digestive tract. There are roughly one thousand different species of bacteria, that are nourished partly by what we eat. Each person has their own specific gut flora and metabolism and these differ according to our dietary habits. Previous studies in mice have shown that a high-fat diet is capable of causing an imbalance in the gut flora, thus causing metabolic diseases such as diabetes or obesity.

Source: This information is provided with editorial adaptations from a press release issued by the Inserm .

Did You Know That Video Games Change Your Brain?

A team led by psychology professor Ian Spence at the University of Toronto reveals that playing an action videogame, even for a relatively short time, causes differences in brain activity and improvements in visual attention.

Twenty-five subjects — who had not previously played videogames — played a game for a total of 10 hours in one to two hour sessions. Sixteen of the subjects played a first-person shooter game and, as a control, nine subjects played a three-dimensional puzzle game.

Before and after playing the games, the subjects’ brain waves were recorded while they tried to detect a target object among other distractions over a wide visual field. Subjects who played the shooter videogame and also showed the greatest improvement on the visual attention task showed significant changes in their brain waves. The remaining subjects — including those who had played the puzzle game — did not.

“After playing the shooter game, the changes in electrical activity were consistent with brain processes that enhance visual attention and suppress distracting information,” said Sijing Wu, a PhD student in Spence’s lab in U of T’s Department of Psychology and lead author of the study.

“Studies in different labs, including here at the University of Toronto, have shown that action videogames can improve selective visual attention, such as the ability to quickly detect and identify a target in a cluttered background,” said Spence. “But nobody has previously demonstrated that there are differences in brain activity which are a direct result of playing the videogame.”

“Superior visual attention is crucial in many important everyday activities,” added Spence. “It’s necessary for things such as driving a car, monitoring changes on a computer display, or even avoiding tripping while walking through a room with children’s toys scattered on the floor.”

The research was supported by funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada in the form of Discovery Grants to Spence and co-author Claude Alain of the Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest Centre and U of T’s Psychology Department.

Source: This information is reproduced with editorial adaptations from a press release issued by the University of Toronto. For more information click here. The study was funded by the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education.

Reviewed by:Rajeev Kurapati MD

People With ‘Balanced Time Perspective’ More Likely to Call Themselves Content

Do you look fondly at the past, enjoy yourself in the present, and strive for future goals? If you hold these time perspectives simultaneously—and don’t go overboard on any one of them—you’re likely to be a happy person.

A new study by San Francisco State University researcher Ryan Howell and his colleagues demonstrates that having this sort of “balanced time perspective” can make people feel more vital, more grateful, and more satisfied with their lives.

“If you are too extreme or rely too much on any one of these perspectives, it becomes detrimental, and you can get into very destructive types of behaviors,” Howell said. “It is best to be balanced in your time perspectives.”

While it may seem obvious that people who have a positive attitude about their past, enjoy the present, and focus on goals for the future would be the happiest, Howell said that a sense of well-being depends on the balance between these elements.

“If you’re really dominant in one type of perspective, you’re very limited in certain situations,” he added. “To deal well when you walk into any situation, you need to have cognitive flexibility. That is probably why people with a balanced time perspective are happiest.”

It can be fine to have fond memories of childhood, for instance, but spending too much time remembering the past can keep you from enjoying the present. It might be great to treat yourself to a nice dinner, but “living in the moment” like that every night could keep you from achieving future goals.

There is some evidence that people can “rebalance” their time perspectives, Howell said, while noting that “there hasn’t been a lot of work that’s tried to change time perspectives explicitly.” But in general, “if you’re too future-oriented, it might be good to give yourself a moment to sit back and enjoy the present,” Howell suggested. “If you’re too hedonistic and living for the moment, maybe it’s time to start planning some future goals.”

Source: This information is reproduced with editorial adaptations from a press release issued by the San Francisco State University. For more information click here.

Reviewed by:Rajeev Kurapati MD

Homosexuality is Permanent, Opposition is Not

Last week, President Barack Obama announced his personal support for same-sex marriage for the first time. While this may be considered as shocking for an incumbent president gearing up for another election, the revelation that being gay is “okay” is really nothing new. Those in the fields of medicine, psychology, and statistical analysis have been proving again and again that homosexuality is both heritable and permanent.

According to Dr. Neil Cannon, certified Sex Therapist & Couples Counselor: “Sending gays to therapy to become “un-gay” has been a hotly debated topic within the mental health community for many years. The American Psychological Association (APA) representing its’ 150,000 professional members, said that after an exhaustive review of 50 years’ worth of studies, even if gays wanted to become straight there is no credible evidence concluding that reparative therapy is effective.  As a clinician who has worked with countless people of every sexual orientation, I can say with confidence that sexual orientation is not a choice, but rather a clear case of nature over nurture.  The only people that need repair are the people who impose their moral values on others, pathologize those who are different than themselves, and claim there is only one way to live in this life.”

Same-sex marriage has also been examined in terms of evolution. What value could this sexual orientation have, that it has persisted for eons even without any discernible reproductive advantage? One possible explanation is what evolutionary psychologists call the “kin selection hypothesis.” What that means is that homosexuality may convey an indirect benefit by enhancing the survival prospects of close relatives. Specifically, the theory holds that homosexual men might enhance their own genetic prospects by being “helpers in the nest.” By acting altruistically toward nieces and nephews, homosexual men would perpetuate the family genes, including some of their own.

Ultimately, public attitudes toward gays and lesbians are becoming more accepting, especially by younger generations, according to research by NORC at the University of Chicago. The results show a clear trend toward greater tolerance regarding homosexuality.

The rise in support for same-sex marriage has been especially dramatic over the last two decades. It went from 11 percent approval in 1988 to 46 percent in 2010, compared to 40 percent who were opposed.

All and all, anti-gay attitudes may eventually become all but antiquated.

Sources:

University of Chicago Press Journals
Association for Psychological Science

www.doctorcannon.com

Maintain Your Brain: The Secrets to Aging Success

Aging is unavoidable, but that’s not necessarily so when it comes to the brain. So say researchers in the the Cell Press journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences explaining that it is what you do in old age that matters more when it comes to maintaining a youthful brain not what you did earlier in life. “Although some memory functions do tend to decline as we get older, several elderly show well preserved functioning and this is related to a well-preserved, youth-like brain,” says Lars Nyberg of Umeå University in Sweden.

Education won’t save your brain — PhDs are as likely as high-school dropouts to experience memory loss with old age, the researchers say. Don’t count on your job either. Those with a complex or demanding career may enjoy a limited advantage, but those benefits quickly dwindle after retirement.

Engagement is the secret to success. Those who are socially, mentally and physically stimulated reliably show better cognitive performance with a brain that appears younger than its years. “There is quite solid evidence that staying physically and mentally active is a way towards brain maintenance,” Nyberg says. The researchers say this new take on successful aging represents an important shift in focus for the field.

“Engagement is the secret to success.

Much attention in the past has gone instead to understanding ways in which the brain copes with or compensates for cognitive decline in aging. The research team now argues for the importance of avoiding those age-related brain changes in the first place.

Genes play some role, but life choices and other environmental factors, especially in old age, are critical. Elderly people generally do have more trouble remembering meetings or names, Nyberg says. But those memory losses often happen later than many often think, after the age of 60. Older people also continue to accumulate knowledge and to use what they know effectively, often to very old ages. “Taken together, a wide range of findings provides converging evidence for marked heterogeneity in brain aging,” the scientists write. “Critically, some older adults show little or no brain changes relative to younger adults, along with intact cognitive performance, which supports the notion of brain maintenance.

In other words, maintaining a youthful brain, rather than responding to and compensating for changes, may be the key to successful memory aging.” Source:

This information is provided with editorial adaptations from a press release issued by the Cell Press.

The Rise of Attachment Parenting

The cover of the latest issue of Time magazine portrays a real mom, Jamie Lynne Grumet with her three year old son sucking on her breast standing on a chair is sure to turn heads and draw readers attention.

The story is about “attachment parenting” – an approach whereby parents breastfeed and co-sleep with their children, in addition to wearing their children in slings.

On left: Jessica Cary and her 3-year-old daughter. Right: Dionna Ford with her 4-year-old and 5-month-old sons.

What is Attachment Parenting?

Attachment Parenting is an approach to childrearing that promotes a secure attachment bond between parents and their children. Attachment is a scientific term for the emotional bond in a relationship. Attachment Parenting International (API) is a worldwide educational association for this style of parenting. API identifies eight principles of attachment parenting.

According to API, these tools are valuable, practical insights for everyday parenting – that they can use to apply the concept behind Attachment Parenting. These tools guide parents as they incorporate attachment into their individual parenting styles:

  1. Prepare for Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Parenting — The overarching message within this principle is the importance of parents to research their decisions regarding pregnancy care, childbirth choices, and parenting styles; childbirth without the use of interventions shows the best start to the parent-infant bond. However, there are ways to modify the initial bonding experience for mothers who do encounter complications.
  2. Feed with Love and Respect — Research shows unequivocal evidence for breastfeeding for infants along with gentle weaning into nutritious food choices. Breastfeeding is the healthiest infant-feeding choice. The physiology of breastfeeding promotes a high degree of maternal responsiveness and is associated with several other positive outcomes. In the case breastfeeding is not possible, bottle-nursing — attentive bottle-feeding — should emulate the closeness of breastfeeding.
  3. Respond with Sensitivity — This Principle is a central element in all of the Principles; it is viewed by many parents as the cornerstone to Attachment Parenting. It encompasses a timely response by a nurturing caregiver. Baby-training systems, such as the commonly referred-to “cry it out,” are inconsistent with this Principle. The foundation of responding with sensitivity in the early years prepares parents for all their years of parenting, by modeling respect and caring.
  4. Provide Nurturing Touch — Parents who “wear” their babies in a sling or wrap are applying this Principle. Infants who are opposed to babywearing enjoy being held in-arms. Touch remains important throughout childhood and can be done through massage, hugs, hand-holding, and cuddling.
  5. Ensure Safe Sleep — This principle is the basis for one of the more controversial subjects in parenting. Many attachment parents share a room with their young children; those who exclusively breastfeed and who take necessary safety precautions may prefer to share their bed. However, this principle can be just as easily applied to crib-sleeping situations. The point is not the sleeping surface but that parents remain responsive to their children during sleep.
  6. Use Consistent and Loving Care — Secure attachment depends on continuity of care by a single, primary caregiver. Ideally, this is the parent. However, if both parents must work outside the home, this principle can be applied by ensuring that the child is being cared for by one childcare provider who embodies a responsive, empathic caregiver over the long-term; for example, an in-home nanny versus a large daycare center with rotating staff.
  7. Practice Positive Discipline — There is a strong push against physical punishment in recent years, but research shows that all forms of punishment, including punitive timeouts, can not only be ineffective in teaching children boundaries in their behavior but also harmful to psychological and emotional development. Parents are encouraged to teach by example and to use non-punitive discipline techniques such as substitution, distraction, problem solving, and playful parenting. Parents do not set rules so that their child obeys for the sake of structure, but rather to be the teacher, the coach, the cheerleader, and the guidepost as the child develops his or her own sense of moral responsibility within the construct of the family value system.
  8. Strive for Personal and Family Balance — Attachment Parenting is a family-centered approach in that all members of the family have equal value. The parent is not a tyrant, yet also not a martyr. Parents need balance between their parenting role and their personal life in order to continue having the energy and motivation to maintain a healthy relationship and to model healthy lifestyles for their children.

Attachment Parenting is not exclusive. Every parent – every socioeconomic class, every ethnicity, every culture – can incorporate attachment-minded techniques into their childrearing philosophy.

Each mother has a unique way of raising her child in tune with the child’s needs and with her own needs. Attachment Parenting is another set of tools to help moms raise children would would become stress free successful adults.

For more information: Attachment Parenting International (API)

Fear of Not Having Enough Food May Lead to Obesity

Reviewed by:Rajeev Kurapati MD

While eating too much food can cause obesity, the fear of not having enough food may lead to the same result, according to a study to be presented  at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting.

Being worried about not having enough food to feed one’s family, a situation called food insecurity, is common in low-income families. These families often are overweight, too.

“Understanding the reasons why poverty puts families at greater risk of obesity is essential to addressing the epidemic,” said study lead author Rachel Gross, MD, MS, FAAP, assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York.

Credit: Department of the Interior. Solid Fuels Administration For War

Dr. Gross and her colleagues at the New York University School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital Center, interviewed 201 low-income mothers with infants younger than 6 months about their feeding styles (whether they tried to control how much the child ate), feeding practices (e.g., breastfeeding, adding cereal to bottles) and concerns about their child becoming overweight. Studies have shown that feeding patterns leading to obesity often begin in infancy.

The mothers primarily were Hispanic, and all participated in the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

Results showed that about one-third of the mothers reported food insecurity.

“We found that food insecurity is related to controlling feeding practices, which have been shown to increase child obesity,” Dr. Gross said. “These controlling feeding practices involved both restriction, in which parents limit the infant’s intake even if the infant is hungry, and pressuring, in which the parent encourages the infant to eat more even if the infant is full.”

It is believed that when mothers control what an infant eats, it may disrupt the child’s ability to regulate his or her own hunger and fullness, leading to overeating and inappropriate weight gain, Dr. Gross explained.

Food-insecure mothers also were more concerned about their child becoming overweight than mothers who weren’t worried about having enough food for their families.

“This work suggests that in addition to addressing hunger and malnutrition, it is critical that policy efforts be made to work with food-insecure families to prevent the opposite problem — obesity,” Dr. Gross said.

Source: This information is reproduced with editorial adaptations from a press release issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics. For more information click here.

 

Did Junior Seau’s Iconic Career Cost Him His Life?

Tiaina Baul “Junior” Seau, Jr was a American Football icon who was named to the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team. On May 2, 2012, Junior Seau was found by his girlfriend dead of a gunshot wound to the chest at his home in Oceanside, California. The death was ruled a suicide by the San Diego County medical examiner’s office.

Over recent years there has been increasing attention focused on the neurological sequelae of sports-related traumatic brain injury, particularly concussion. Concussion is a frequent occurrence in contact sports.

Since the 1920s, it has been known that the repetitive brain trauma associated with boxing may produce a progressive neurological deterioration, originally termed “dementia pugilistica” and more recently, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

CTE is a progressive degeneration of brains and nerves, that is associated with memory disturbances, behavioral and personality change, and speech and gait abnormalities. There is overwhelming evidence that the condition is the result of repeated sublethal brain trauma that often occurs well before the development of symptoms. Repetitive closed head injury occurs in a wide variety of contact sports.

Repetitive closed head injury occurs in a wide variety of contact sports, including football, boxing, wrestling, rugby, hockey, lacrosse, soccer, and skiing. Furthermore, in collision sports such as football and boxing, players may experience thousands of head hits over the course of a single season. Although the long-term neurological effecrs associated with repetitive brain injury are best known in boxing, this effect has been reported in professional football players, a professional wrestler and soccer players.

In 2002, forensic pathologists in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania found evidence of CTE in the brains of several football players and professional boxers.

Most recently, retired NFL player Junior Seau committed suicide with a gunshot wound to the chest. Seau’s ex-wife Gina told The Associated Press after Seau’s death that Seau sustained concussions during his career. “‘Of course he had [sustained them]. He always bounced back and kept on playing.'” she said. The medical community focused on management of Concussion in contact sports might get some evidence if in fact repeated concussions have resulted in Junior Seau’s suicide.

Additional Readinge:CTE in Athletes

Related: Must know facts about Concussion

Young Doctor Survives and Conquers Bike Accident Injuries

In October 2010, Dr. Tim Delgado, an emergency department resident of Cincinnati’s University Hospital, was to assist with a “Jane Doe cyclist in her 20’s” who had just arrived to the hospital via Air Care. Shortly after working with the patient, Dr. Delgado came to a startling realization – the patient was his wife.

Alison Delgado, a pediatric resident, suffered serious physical and neurological injuries as a result of the bicycle accident. Thanks to her helmet, her skull was intact despite numerous fractures to her neck and body.  Unfortunately, however, the impact caused a blood vessel to tear inside of her brain resulting in a subarachnoid hemorrhage and a dangerous bulge vessel wall called an aneurism. Plus, the discovery of a second aneurism on the side of her brain suggested that Alison had a genetic abnormality that increased her chances of developing brain aneurisms.

Despite several procedures to treat the aneurysm, four days after Alison’s return home from rehabilitation, it ruptured a second time.

After successful neutralization of the aneurysm, Alison refocused her attention on rehab and recovery. Memory was a difficult issue to tackle as she had trouble remembering even the name of her husband. So, her husband played games with her and showed photos of objects, friends, and family for her to find words to describe them. Reading and speech also progressed slowly with therapy. Other rehabilitation strategies included work on an elliptical, weight lifting, and balance exercises.

In February of 2011, only four months after her injury, Alison was able to present cases during her bedside rounds at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. In April, she began working part-time, and by May, was back to full-time. She is expected to finish her residency by December 2012, at which time she hopes to pursue primary care or a sports medicine fellowship.

After surviving and recovering from the near-death accident, Alison, a former winner of Cincinnati’s Flying Pig and a woman who had reached the summit of two 14,000-foot Colorado peaks, is back at achieving her athletic feats by training to run the 2012 Flying Pig. With love, determination, and persistence, Alison conquered her injuries and is living the life she had always dreamed.

To read Dr. Alison Delgado’s full story, check out these links:
http://cincinnatichildrensblog.org/so-much-more-than-26-2-miles/
http://www.mayfieldclinic.com/MC_hope/Story_alison.htm

http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/patients/care/stories/tell-me/brain-spine/alison-delgado/

How Thinking About Death Can Lead to a Good Life

Reviewed by: Rajeev Kurapati MD

Thinking about death can actually be a good thing. An awareness of mortality can improve physical health and help us re-prioritize our goals and values, according to a new analysis of recent scientific studies. Even non-conscious thinking about death – say walking by a cemetery – could prompt positive changes and promote helping others.

Past research suggests that thinking about death is destructive and dangerous, fueling everything from prejudice and greed to violence. Such studies related to terror management theory (TMT), which posits that we uphold certain cultural beliefs to manage our feelings of mortality, have rarely explored the potential benefits of death awareness.

“This tendency for TMT research to primarily deal with negative attitudes and harmful behaviors has become so deeply entrenched in our field that some have recently suggested that death awareness is simply a bleak force of social destruction,” says Kenneth Vail of the University of Missouri, lead author of the new study in the online edition of Personality and Social Psychology Review this month. “There has been very little integrative understanding of how subtle, day-to-day, death awareness might be capable of motivating attitudes and behaviors that can minimize harm to oneself and others, and can promote well-being.”

On study tested how just being physically near a cemetery affects how willing people are to help a stranger. “Researchers hypothesized that if the cultural value of helping was made important to people, then the heightened awareness of death would motivate an increase in helping behaviors,” Vail says.

The researchers observed people who were either passing through a cemetery or were one block away, out of sight of the cemetery. Actors at each location talked near the participants about either the value of helping others or a control topic, and then some moments later, another actor dropped her notebook. The researchers then tested in each condition how many people helped the stranger.

“When the value of helping was made salient, the number of participants who helped the second confederate with her notebook was 40% greater at the cemetery than a block away from the cemetery,” Vail says. “Other field experiments and tightly controlled laboratory experiments have replicated these and similar findings, showing that the awareness of death can motivate increased expressions of tolerance, egalitarianism, compassion, empathy, and pacifism.”

For example, a 2010 study by Immo Fritsche of the University of Leipzig and co-authors revealed how increased death awareness can motivate sustainable behaviors when pro-environmental norms are made salient. And a study by Zachary Rothschild of the University of Kansas and co-workers in 2009 showed how an increased awareness of death can motivate American and Iranian religious fundamentalists to display peaceful compassion toward members of other groups when religious texts make such values more important.

Thinking about death can also promote better health. Recent studies have shown that when reminded of death people may opt for better health choices, such as using more sunscreen, smoking less, or increasing levels of exercise. A 2011 study by D.P. Cooper and co-authors found that death reminders increased intentions to perform breast self-exams when women were exposed to information that linked the behavior to self-empowerment.

One major implication of this body of work, Vail says, is that we should “turn attention and research efforts toward better understanding of how the motivations triggered by death awareness can actually improve people’s lives, rather than how it can cause malady and social strife.” Write the authors: “The dance with death can be a delicate but potentially elegant stride toward living the good life.”

The paper “When Death is Good for Life: Considering the Positive Trajectories of Terror Management” was published online on April 5, 2012, in Personality and Social Psychology Review, a journal of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP).

Source: This information is reproduced with editorial adaptations from a press release issued by Society for Personality and Social Psychology. For more information, click here. 

Soda Consumption Increases Overall Stroke Risk

Researchers from Cleveland Clinic‘s Wellness Institute and Harvard University have found that greater consumption of sugar-sweetened and low-calorie sodas is associated with a higher risk of stroke. Conversely, consumption of caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee was associated with a lower risk.

The study  is the first to examine soda’s effect on stroke risk. Previous research has linked sugar-sweetened beverage consumption with weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, gout and coronary artery disease.

“Soda remains the largest source of added sugar in the diet,” said Adam Bernstein, M.D., Sc.D., study author and Research Director at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute. “What we’re beginning to understand is that regular intake of these beverages sets off a chain reaction in the body that can potentially lead to many diseases – including stroke.”

In sugar-sweetened sodas, the sugar load may lead to rapid increases in blood glucose and insulin which, over time, may lead to glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, and inflammation. These physiologic changes influence atherosclerosis, plaque stability and thrombosis – all of which are risk factors of ischemic stroke. This risk for stroke appears higher in women than in men.

In comparison, coffee contains chlorogenic acids, lignans and magnesium, all of which act as antioxidants and may reduce stroke risk. When compared with one serving of sugar-sweetened soda, one serving of decaffeinated coffee was associated with a 10 percent lower risk of stroke.

In addition, study findings show that men and women who consumed more than one serving of sugar-sweetened soda per day had higher rates of high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol and lower physical activity rates. Those who drank soda more frequently were also more likely to eat red meat and whole-fat dairy products. Men and women who consumed low-calorie soda had a higher incidence of chronic disease and a higher body mass index (BMI). The investigators controlled for these other factors in their analysis to determine the independent association of soda consumption on stroke risk.

“According to research from the USDA, sugar-sweetened beverage consumption has increased dramatically in the United States over the past three decades, and it’s affecting our health,” said Dr. Bernstein. “These findings reiterate the importance of encouraging individuals to substitute alternate beverages for soda.”

Source: This information is provided with editorial adaptations from a press release issued by the Cleveland Clinic. For more information, click here.

Live Longer by Jogging Regularly

Undertaking regular jogging increases the life expectancy of men by 6.2 years and women by 5.6 years, reveals the latest data from the Copenhagen City Heart study presented at the EuroPRevent2012 meeting. Reviewing the evidence of whether jogging is healthy or hazardous, Peter Schnohr told delegates that the study’s most recent analysis (unpublished) shows that between one and two-and-a-half hours of jogging per week at a “slow or average” pace delivers optimum benefits for longevity. The EuroPRevent2012 meeting, held 3 May to 5 May 2012, in Dublin, Ireland, was organised by the European Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation (EACPR), a registered branch of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). “The results of our research allow us to definitively answer the question of whether jogging is good for your health,” said Schnohr, who is chief cardiologist of the Copenhagen City Heart Study, speaking in the “Assessing prognosis: a glimpse of the future” symposium on Saturday. “We can say with certainty that regular jogging increases longevity. The good news is that you don’t actually need to do that much to reap the benefits.” The debate over jogging first kicked off in the 1970s when middle aged men took an interest in the past-time. “After a few men died while out on a run, various newspapers suggested that jogging might be too strenuous for ordinary middle aged people,” recalled Schnohr. The investigators found that between one hour and two and a half hours a week, undertaken over two to three sessions, delivered the optimum benefits, especially when performed at a slow or average pace. “The relationship appears much like alcohol intakes. Mortality is lower in people reporting moderate jogging, than in non-joggers or those undertaking extreme levels of exercise,” said Schnohr. The ideal pace can be achieved by striving to feel a little breathless. “You should aim to feel a little breathless, but not very breathless,” he advised. Jogging, said Schnohr, delivers multiple health benefits. It improves oxygen uptake, increases insulin sensitivity, improves lipid profiles (raising HDL and lowering triglycerides), lowers blood pressure, reduces platelet aggregation, increases fibrinolytic activity, improves cardiac function, bone density, immune function, reduces inflammation markers, prevents obesity, and improves psychological function. “The improved psychological wellbeing may be down to fact that people have more social interactions when they’re out jogging,” said Schnohr.

Reference “Assessing prognosis: a glimpse of the future.” Symposium: Saturday May 5, 9.15 am to 10.15 am. Liffey B Lecture Room. P. Schnohr, Jogging-healthy or hazard? This story is reproduced with editorial adaptations from Press Release by European Society of Cardiology. About EuroPRevent EuroPRevent2012 is the annual meeting of the European Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation (EACPR), a registered branch of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). EuroPRevent2012 takes place 3 to 5 May 2012 at the Convention Centre, Dublin – Ireland. The full scientific programme is accessible here. http://www.escardio.org/congresses/europrevent-2012/scientific-programme/Pages/welcome.aspx