A gene linked in previous research, appears to predict more severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms as well as a thinner cortex in regions of the brain critical for regulating strong emotions and coping with stressful experiences. This study is believed to be the first to show that the spindle and kinetochore-associated complex subunit 2 (SKA2) gene may play a role in the development of PTSD.Led by researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), the National Center for PTSD and the Translational Research Center for TBI and Stress Disorders at VA Boston Healthcare System, the study appears online in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.PTSD is prevalent among veterans. Eleven to 20 percent of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have experienced PTSD in a given year. Studies suggest that warzone trauma, PTSD symptoms and other post-deployment mental health problems put veterans at heightened risk for suicide relative to the general population. Pinterest LinkedIn Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Email The researchers performed MRI brain scans and collected blood samples from 200 veterans returning from the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. They looked at whether a chemical change (methylation) in the function of the SKA2 gene measured in blood predicted the thickness of brain cortex (a measure of neuronal health) and psychological symptoms, specifically PTSD and depression.“Our findings showed that an in increase in methylation of the SKA2 gene is associated with decreased cortical thickness in the prefrontal cortex, which may play a role in the development of PTSD and may explain why this gene predicts risk for mental health problems, like PTSD and suicide,” explained lead and corresponding author Naomi Samimi Sadeh, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at BUSM and a psychologist in the National Center for PTSD at VA Boston.According to the researchers the implications of this study are significant since it is difficult to predict who will develop PTSD following traumatic events. “These findings suggest that in the future it may be possible to use a genetic blood test to identify military personnel at risk for developing PTSD in response to warzone stressors. We hope these findings will ultimately enhance our ability to identify individuals who are at risk for this disorder by using information about biology to improve diagnosis,” Sadeh concluded. Share
Email Share on Twitter Share Scientists at the University of Cambridge University have published new results in the journal PLoS ONE from the largest ever study of people with autism taking the ‘Reading the Mind in the Eyes’ test. Whilst typical adults showed the predicted and now well-established sex difference on this test, with women on average scoring higher than men, in adults with autism this typical sex difference was conspicuously absent. Instead, both men and women with autism showed an extreme of the typical male pattern on the test, providing strong support for the ‘extreme male brain’ theory of autism.The study was led by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the Autism Research Centre (ARC) in Cambridge University. Almost 400 men and women with autism or Asperger Syndrome took the test online, which entails looking at a series of photographs of just the eye region of the face, and picking which of 4 words best describe what the person in the photo is thinking or feeling.The ‘Reading the Mind in the Eyes’ test is known as an advanced ‘theory of mind’ or empathy test, designed to reveal subtle individual differences in social sensitivity. It particularly measures the ‘cognitive’ component of empathy, that is, the ability to recognize or infer someone else’s state of mind. The test has been used in hundreds of studies worldwide, showing reliable sex differences in typical individuals, with women on average scoring higher than men, and showing that people with autism score lower on average than people without autism. LinkedIn Share on Facebook Pinterest The team investigated whether men and women with autism perform differently on this test, and used it to evaluate the ‘extreme male brain’ theory of autism, in the largest study to date. This theory predicts that on tests of empathy, typical females will score higher than typical males, who in turn will score higher than people with autism. The results confirmed this pattern.Professor Baron-Cohen commented: “We are seeing this pattern not just on the Eyes test but on a number of measures. Last year we saw it on the Empathy Quotient, a self-report measure of social sensitivity, and on the Systemizing Quotient, a self-report measure of one’s interest and aptitude in understanding systems. This year we saw it in prenatal testosterone levels, where boys with autism had elevated levels of this hormone compared to typically developing boys, who in turn have higher levels than typically developing girls. And a decade ago we found how much prenatal testosterone you have influences your scores on the Eyes test. Future research needs to delve into what is giving rise to this pattern.”Dr Carrie Allison, Research Manager at the ARC and another member of the team, said: “Imagine looking at people’s eyes and not being able to ‘read’ them effortlessly and intuitively for what the other person may be thinking or feeling. This research has the potential to explain why children with autism, from the earliest point in development, avoid looking at people’s eyes, and become confused in rapidly changing social situations, where people are exchanging glances without words all the time. This disability may be both a marker of the early-onset empathy difficulties in autism, and contribute to exacerbating them. Teaching children with autism how to read emotional expressions non-verbally should become an important clinical focus for future research and practice.”Dr Meng-Chuan Lai, the William Binks Autism Neuroscience Fellow at the ARC and senior author of the study, added: “There are substantial individual differences in terms of how well a person with autism performs on the Eyes test, but the social difficulties of both men and women are reflected on their test scores. In addition, women with autism differ more from typical women than men with autism differ from typical men. The relationship between autism and sex and gender is becoming an important topic for autism research.”
Email Share on Facebook In marijuana users in the study, ischemic stroke was more likely to be caused by intracranial arterial stenosis, a condition where there is narrowing the arteries inside the skull caused by a buildup of plaque. Intracranial arterial stenosis was found in 45 percent of the marijuana users in the study compared to 14 percent of the non-users.Marijuana users in the study were younger, more likely to be male, more likely to smoke tobacco, and more likely to have other lifestyle risk factors than non-users in the study.Cardio embolism, a blood clot formed elsewhere in the body that moves to the brain, was most common cause of ischemic stroke in non-marijuana users in the study. Investigators found 29 percent of strokes in non-users were caused by cardio embolism compared to only 14 percent in the marijuana users.“Fighting stroke must remain a priority, including in young adults,” said the authors, led by Valerie Wolff, M.D., PhD. “The first step may be to inform the public regarding the potential occurrence of stroke associated with cannabis and other lifestyle risk factors.” Pinterest LinkedIn Share on Twitter A new study found strokes in young adults who use marijuana are more likely to be caused by stenosis, narrowing of the arteries, in the skull than strokes in non-users.Previous studies have found an association between marijuana use and stroke, but the new study published today as a research letter in the Nov. 3 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology is the first to explore differences in stroke in marijuana users and non-users, an approach that can help researchers begin to identify possible mechanisms for stroke in users.The researchers from The University Hospital of Strasbourg in Strasbourg, France, looked at all patients under age 45 admitted with ischemic stroke from 2005 to 2014, creating a study cohort of 334 patients, including 58 who were marijuana users. Ischemic stroke is caused by a blockage that interrupts or reduces blood flow to the brain as opposed to hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel in the brain leaks or ruptures. Share
Pinterest Email Share on Facebook LinkedIn Share on Twitter A new study, published in Archives of Sexual Behavior by researchers affiliated with New York University’s Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR), compared self-reported sexual experiences related to use of alcohol and marijuana. Since marijuana has increased in popularity in the U.S., the researchers examined if and how marijuana use may influence risk for unsafe sexual behavior.“With marijuana becoming more accepted in the U.S. along with more liberal state-level policies,” notes Joseph J. Palamar, PhD, MPH, an affiliate of CDUHR and an assistant professor of Population Health at NYU Langone Medical Center (NYULMC), “it is important to examine users’ sexual experiences and sexual risk behavior associated with use to inform prevention and harm reduction.”In this study, the researchers interviewed 24 adults (12 males and 12 females, all self-identified as heterosexual and HIV-negative) who recently used marijuana before sex. Compared to marijuana, alcohol use was more commonly associated with social outgoingness and use often facilitated connections with potential sexual partners; however, alcohol was more likely than marijuana to lead to atypical partner choice or post-sex regret. Share Alcohol was commonly used as a social lubricant to meet sexual partners, and this was related, in part, to alcohol being readily available in social gatherings.“Interestingly, some users reported that the illegality of marijuana actually facilitated sexual interactions,” notes Dr. Palamar. “Since smoking marijuana recreationally is illegal in most states and smoking it tends to produce a strong odor, it usually has to be used in a private setting. Some individuals utilize such private or intimate situations to facilitate sexual encounters”.While users often described favorable sexual effects of each drug, both alcohol and marijuana were reportedly associated with a variety of negative sexual effects including sexual dysfunction. For example, marijuana use was linked to vaginal dryness and alcohol was commonly described as increasing the likelihood of impotence among males.The researchers noted that the sexual effects tended to be similar across males and females, and both alcohol and marijuana were generally associated with loss of inhibitions. Both drugs appear to be potentially associated with increased feelings of self-attractiveness, but possibly more so for alcohol, and participants reported feelings of increased sociability and boldness while consuming alcohol.While some participants reported that marijuana use made them more selective in choosing a partner, many participants– both male and female–felt that their “standards” for choosing a partner were lowered while under the influence of alcohol.“It wasn’t surprising that alcohol use reportedly led to less post-sex satisfaction than marijuana,” said Dr. Palamar. “Participants reported feelings of regret more frequently after sex on alcohol, but compared to alcohol they generally didn’t report poor judgment after using marijuana.”When smoking marijuana, participants tended to reported increased feelings of anxiety or a sense of wariness in unfamiliar situations that they did not generally seem to experience after using alcohol. Therefore, these drugs appear to have different effects with regard to socialization that may precede a sexual encounter.“Sexual encounters on marijuana tended to be with someone the individual knew,” comments Dr. Palamar. “Sex on alcohol was often with a stranger so the situation before sex may be much more important than the drug used.”Marijuana and alcohol are associated with unique sexual effects, with alcohol use reportedly leading to riskier sexual behavior. Both drugs appear to potentially increase risk for unsafe sex.“Research is needed continue to study sexual effects of recreational drugs to inform prevention to ensure that users and potential users of these drugs are aware of sexual effects associated with use,” emphasizes Dr. Palamar. “Our results can inform prevention and harm reduction education especially with regard to marijuana, since people who smoke marijuana generally don’t receive any harm reduction information at all. They’re pretty much just told not to use it.”
Share on Facebook The study, led by Chiao‑Yun Chen of the National Chung Cheng University, involved 15 male sex offenders and 15 control participants, and looked for abnormal cortical and subcortical white matter integrity (Fractional anisotropy) using diffusion tensor imaging. The results revealed a number of key findings.Firstly, sex offenders had reduced integrity in the posterior cingulum. The posterior cingulum connects a number of key regions linked to conditioning, and thus this may suggest impairments in fear conditioning, known to predispose individuals to criminal behavior.Secondly, they found increased integrity in brain areas involved in the reward system (caudate, globus pallidus, and thalamus). Previous research has suggested this could contribute to over-activation of brain areas related to sexual arousal.Thirdly, decreased integrity was found in white matter near the angular gyrus, the posterior cingulate, and the medial frontal pole. Previous studies using functional imaging have reported these regions to be involved in moral decision-making, as well as to be dysfunctional in violent and psychopathic criminals.Finally, the results revealed increased integrity in several regions of the internal capsule, when compared with the control group. Previous research has linked obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) to this region, and the researchers suggested that this could contribute to obsessive thinking on sexual themes.The study was the first to report white matter abnormalities in rapists. The findings highlight important differences in areas relating to poor fear conditioning, a tendency for sexual over-arousal, heightened sensitivity to reward and obsessive thinking on sexual themes. These areas may potentially contribute to an increased risk for committing rape. Share on Twitter Pinterest LinkedIn Share Email The first evidence of white matter abnormalities in rapists have been reported in a study published this July in BMC Neuroscience. Diffusion tensor imaging findings highlighted important differences in areas relating to poor fear conditioning, a tendency for sexual over-arousal, heightened sensitivity to reward and obsessive thinking on sexual themes.As the rate of sex crimes and number of sexual offenders continue to grow, much effort has been devoted to understanding the nature of these crimes, as well as the characteristics of the offenders. Some have proposed that heterosexual rapists may be over-responsive to sexual stimuli. Others have hypothesized an association between the construct of moral judgment and sexual offenses.Recent research has documented structural brain abnormalities in various criminal offenders related to sexual arousal and behavior and moral decision-making.
LinkedIn A new research review which consolidates thinking on how students engage with feedback has been published by psychologists at the University of Surrey and Aston University in Educational Psychologist. Run in collaboration with the Higher Education Academy (HEA), the project has also led to the launch of a ‘Developing Engagement with Feedback Toolkit‘, which suggests interactive workshops and a feedback portfolio as ways of helping students to better engage with their feedback.Getting feedback on assignments is a key part of the learning process for students, and optimising its effectiveness is particularly important in an era of rising tuition fees and concern among universities about student satisfaction levels and their impact on league table rankings.The systematic review, which looked at evidence from 195 different studies published since 1985, revealed that learners’ engagement with feedback is often poor, with many students failing to look at written feedback or only looking at it once. The review acknowledges that there are a range of reasons why students fail to engage effectively with feedback – for example, they may find it difficult to understand, may not know how to use it, may not feel capable of changing what they do, or may lack motivation to engage with the advice they receive. Share Pinterest Share on Facebook The review found that students’ use of feedback is influenced not just by what advice is given, but also by various characteristics of the sender and receiver, and characteristics of the learning context. For example the modular structure of many degree courses means that students can perceive feedback on one assignment as irrelevant if they have now moved onto a new module.One of the main recommendations to emerge from the review was that when educators try to improve students’ use of feedback, they should first focus on the skills that their students will need in order to engage effectively. The authors identified a number of crucial learning skills and suggested that multiple interventions are likely to be needed to successfully improve all of these skills.Based on this research, the Developing Engagement with Feedback Toolkit has been created to help educators and students overcome some of the key barriers to engagement with feedback. Including a feedback guide for students, the toolkit suggests running feedback workshops, and using a feedback portfolio aimed at enabling students to see how feedback influences their progression.The review’s lead author, Dr Naomi Winstone from the University of Surrey, commented, “It’s very clear that receiving feedback shouldn’t be the end of the process: it should be the starting point.“What we’ve proposed is that students will often need support in developing the necessary skills for using feedback well. Making space within the curriculum to specifically focus on these skills could help more students to make better use of the advice they receive.” Email Share on Twitter
Share Share on Facebook LinkedIn People with higher levels of psychopathic tendencies are more likely to assault their romantic partners. They are also more likely to drink alcohol, a UBC study has found.The study, which was conducted at UBC’s Okanagan campus, involved looking at data and police reports involving 700 US civil psychiatric patients in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as well as 870 students at UBC’s campus in Kelowna, BC.“In this research, we noted that having higher levels of psychopathic personality traits is an important predictor of how likely someone is to engage in intimate partner violence,” says Zach Walsh, an associate professor of psychology and the study’s principal investigator. “While we also found that people with psychopathic tendencies tended to drink more alcohol, the data tells us it is their personality traits more than substance use that is associated with violence. Pinterest Share on Twitter “With further investigation, this research may be able to assist policy makers and service providers in their efforts to both predict and reduce violence among couples.”The research also found that association between psychopathic personality traits and violence was consistent across both students and psychiatric patients.Walsh’s study, conducted with Jenifer Langille of UBC and Marisa Okano of McGill University, was recently published in the journal Law and Human Behaviour. Email
Share on Twitter The vast majority of people with depression across the world are not receiving even minimally adequate treatment for their condition, according to a new study of more than 50,000 people in 21 countries by King’s College London, Harvard Medical School and the World Health Organization (WHO).The research, published today in the British Journal of Psychiatry, reports that of 4,331 people with depression across all 21 countries, treatment rates vary widely. In high income countries only one in five people with depression receive adequate treatment. The situation in the poorest countries of the world is far worse, where one in 27 people with depression receive adequate treatment.Globally, an estimated 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression, and the condition is the leading cause of disability worldwide. There is an increasing awareness that depression can be reliably diagnosed and treated in primary care settings using psychological therapy or medication, yet these scientifically proven and effective treatments are not being delivered on a wide scale. LinkedIn Email The researchers analysed data from the WHO World Mental Health Surveys, a series of 23 community surveys in 21 countries. These included 10 low or middle income countries (Brazil, Bulgaria, Colombia, Iraq, Lebanon, Mexico, Nigeria, People’s Republic of China (PRC), Peru and Romania) and 11 high income countries (Argentina, Belgium, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the USA).The researchers defined minimally adequate treatment as receiving either pharmacotherapy (at least one month of medication plus four or more visits to a doctor) or psychotherapy (at least eight visits with any professional including religious or spiritual advisor, social worker or counsellor).Professor Graham Thornicroft from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London, who led the study, said: ‘We call on national and international organisations to make adequate resources available for scaling up the provision of mental health services so that no one with depression is left behind. Our results indicate that much treatment currently offered to people with depression falls far short of the criteria for evidence-based and effective treatment.‘Intriguingly, about half of all people with depression did not think they had a problem that needed treatment and this proportion fell to only a third in the poorest countries. This strongly suggests that we also need to support people with depression and their family members to recognise that they have a treatable condition and should seek treatment and care.’Professor Thornicroft added: ‘Providing treatment at the scale required to treat all people with depression is crucial, not only for decreasing disability and death by suicide, but also from a moral and human rights perspective, and to help people to be fully productive members of society.’This study was carried out in conjunction with the World Health Organization World Mental Health (WMH) Survey Initiative. Pinterest Share on Facebook Share
Share on Twitter LinkedIn The study shows that positive changes in sleep over time – improved quality and quantity, and using less sleep medication – are linked with improved scores on the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ), which is used by mental health professionals to monitor psychological wellbeing in patients.People surveyed who reported positive improved sleep scored a 2-point change in the GHQ – a result comparable to those recorded from patients completing an eight-week programme of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy designed to improve psychological wellbeing.Furthermore, the same people showed improved scores on the 12-Item Short Form Survey, which tests levels of physical and emotional health, as well as people’s ability to perform everyday activities.Conversely, it was found that a lack of sleep, bad quality sleep, and using more sleep medication can lead to worsened medical and emotional states.Dr Tang’s research proves that improving the quality and quantity of sleep amongst the population – as well as discouraging the use of sleep medication – is an effective, simple and cheap method of raising the health and wellbeing of society as a whole.Consequently, she argues that working on getting good quality sleep, and the reduction of sleep medication, should be promoted as a public health value – something that everyone can do easily to stay physically and mentally healthy.Dr Tang comments:“We are far from demonstrating a causal relationship, but the current findings suggest that a positive change in sleep is linked to better physical and mental wellbeing further down the line.“It is refreshing to see the healing potential of sleep outside of clinical trial settings, as this goes to show that the benefits of better sleep are accessible to everyone and not reserved for those with extremely bad sleep requiring intensive treatments.“An important next step is to look at the differences between those who demonstrate a positive and negative change in sleep over time, and identify what lifestyle factors and day-to-day activities are conducive to promoting sleep. Further research in this area can inform the design of public health initiatives.”The paper, ‘Changes in Sleep Duration, Quality, and Medication Use are Prospectively Associated with Health and Wellbeing: Analysis of the UK Households Study’ is published in SLEEP.It is co-authored by Dr Mark Fiecas, Esther Afolalu and Professor Dieter Wolke. Improving your sleep quality is as beneficial to health and happiness as winning the lottery, according to research by the University of Warwick.Dr Nicole Tang in the Department of Psychology has discovered that working on getting a better night’s sleep can lead to optimal physical and mental wellbeing over time – and that quality of sleep is more important than how many hours you get.Analysing the sleep patterns of more than 30,500 people in UK households across four years, Dr Tang finds that improving your sleep quality leads to levels of mental and physical health comparable to those of somebody who’s won a jackpot of around £200,000. Pinterest Email Share Share on Facebook
LinkedIn Share on Facebook Share Pinterest Email Share on Twitter PsyPost interviewed the study’s corresponding author, Nicole Barbaro. To learn more about the study, read her explanation of the research below:PsyPost: Why were you interested in this topic?Barbaro: There were two primary reasons we were interested in this topic. One reason being that no research had yet been conducted on post-fight respect, or post-fight reconciliation behavior, in humans. A bit a research had been done on reconciliatory behaviors following combative behavior in chimpanzees and other primates, but the vast majority of the human research on fighting and combative behavior has been focused on formidability assessments and the benefits of dominance within competitive contexts. The second reason being that we were interested in explaining a real-life phenomenon commonly seen in combat sports, such as mixed martial arts (e.g., UFC). It is incredibly common to see that two opponents — who had spent upwards of 25 minutes attempting to knock out the other — shake hands, hug, and praise one another at the conclusion of the fight. So, we were interested in whether there are reliable predictors of displaying what we call “post-fight respect “given certain attributes of the fight and the combatants. What should the average person take away from your study?Our research includes three studies (two self-report studies, and one behavioral study) to investigate whether features of the fight and combatants—fight outcome, use of “dirty” fight tactics, size asymmetries, fighter ranking, and presence of witnesses—predicted whether an individual’s anticipates receiving respect from their opponent and the likelihood that an individual would actually display respect to their opponent following a one-on-one fight. Across the three studies there are two major findings. One being that, on average, individuals expect that they should receive post-fight respect more often than they are willing to actually display post-fight respect. The second being that size asymmetries and use of “dirty” fight tactics appear to be the most reliable predictors of both receiving and displaying post-fight respect. The latter finding accords with much previous research on human combat, such that (1) men (and to a lesser degree, women) can very accurately assess the physical strength and general formidability of other men visually, and (2) cross-cultural research shows that there is general agreement on what type of fight tactics, or behaviors, are acceptable for one-on-one fights. Given the previous work in this area, our findings mesh well, and also contribute novel findings in an under-researched domain of psychology. Based on our findings, we suggest that displaying post-fight respect to an opponent reflects positive valuations of the opponent’s fighting performance—that is, if an opponent is much smaller than you (a fighting “handicap” of sorts) and fights a “clean” fight, then your display of respect is a way of praising their good fighting performance.Are there any major caveats? What questions still need to be addressed?Our research is, to our knowledge, the first attempt to understand the psychology underlying the phenomenon we call “post-fight respect” in humans. Replication and extension of our findings are important for a better and more comprehensive understanding of post-fight behavior in humans, more generally. There are several unanswered questions that still need to be addressed. For instance, the relationship between the two combatants may be important for displays of post-fight behavior–Are the combatants friends? Enemies? Strangers? Another potential predictor we are interested in looking into is whether the fight itself resolved the issue that lead to the escalation in the first place—for instance, we suspect that post-fight respect may potentially signal that the conflict between the combatants has been resolved.Is there anything else you would like to add?Humans—and in particular, men—have a long evolutionary history of fighting and combat. And a wealth of previous research supports this notion, including findings that the events leading to combat are quite predictable, that men have the capacity to evaluate the formidability of other men, and that there is cross-cultural agreement on acceptable fighting behaviors. Our study adds to this area or research and shows displays of post-fight respect may also be predictable given features of the fight and the combatants. Perhaps most exciting, are the future research opportunities that our findings may stimulate within this domain given the results of our research.Nicole Barbaro is currently a PhD student of Evolutionary Psychology at Oakland University. Her research focuses on romantic attachment dynamics and the predictors and consequences of aggressive behavior. More information about Nicole’s research can be found on her website (www.nicolebarbaro.com), or you can follow her research on Twitter @NicoleBarbaroThe study, “Post-Fight Respect Signals Valuations of Opponent’s Fighting Performance“, was also co-authored by Michael N. Pham, Justin K. Mogilski, Todd K. Shackelford, and Virgil Zeigler-Hill. It was published March 1, 2017. A new study provides some clues about when and why some men show signs of respect after a fight.Researchers from Oakland University said their findings indicate that humans may have evolved psychological mechanisms to signal evaluations of fighting performance. The study, published in the peer-reviewed Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, examined what factors could predict signals of respect, such as shaking hands with an opponent.The researchers used questionnaires and an in-lab fight simulation game to investigate when men expect to receive post-fight respect from an opponent and when they themselves display respect for their opponent. They found men expected to receive respect if they win the fight, fight a more formidable opponent, and fight fair. Likewise, individuals are willing to signal respect for their opponent when they fight a less formidable combatant and if their opponent does not fight “dirty.” On the other hand, the presence or absence of witnesses appeared to have no effect on post-fight respect.