ADHD Kids

FDA Approves First-ever Game-based DT Device to Help Children with ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neuro-developmental disorders found among children. It is often diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood. ADHD affects around 4 million children between the ages of 6–11 years. Common symptoms of ADHD include difficulty paying attention and remaining focused, trouble controlling behavior, and extreme levels of activity. As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, only a trained healthcare professional can make the diagnosis of ADHD and the diagnosis should follow an assessment of pattern of symptoms, which include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that interfere with normal functioning and development.

In its landmark decision, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given a green light to the marketing and use of the first game-based digital therapeutic (DT) device to help children with ADHD improve their attention function. The Akili Interactive’s EndeavorRX, previously known as Project EVO, is the first-of-its-kind video game which can be legally marketed and prescribed by doctors and professionals as a form of medicine in the US.

video game on iphoneAfter undergoing seven years of clinical trials that studied over 600 children, FDA has authorized doctors to prescribe the iPhone and iPad game for children, between the ages 8 to 12, with mainly inattentive or combined-type ADHD, who have demonstrated issues with attention. Before its authorization as a treatment method, FDA reviewed data from multiple studies conducted on over 600 children, including studies that examined, whether participants exhibited improvements in attention function, as measured by the Test of Variables of Attention (TOVA), academic performance measures, and other assessment tools.

The prescription-only game called EndeavorRx has been proven to enhance attention function among children with ADHD, as measured by computer-based testing. It is the first digital therapeutic technique intended to better the symptoms related to ADHD, in addition to being the first game-based therapeutic technique to be granted marketing authorization by the FDA for any sort of condition. The gaming device is proposed to be used along with therapeutic program involving clinician-directed therapy, medication, and/or educational programs, that further address symptoms of the disorder.

Will it work? As per the studies conducted by the company itself, the answer is yes. According to one of the studies, after playing the obstacle-dodging, target-collecting game for 25 minutes a day, five days a week for four weeks, one-third of kids no longer had a measurable attention deficit on at least one measure of objective attention.

As per the developer company, after a month of treatment with the game, improvements in ADHD impairments were maintained for up to a month. Major side effects included seemingly mild frustration, headache, dizziness, emotional reaction, and aggression as compared to traditional drug treatment.

FDA is working on providing timely and easy access to this innovative, easy and safe therapeutic technique to the patients.

crocheting

If You are Feeling Stressed, Crocheting can be of Help

According to a recent study conducted by Dr Pippa Burns and Dr Rosemary Van Der Meer from Australia on a sample of over 8000 female crocheters aged between 41 and 60 years, crocheting can be of great help if you feel stressed or if you want to relax yourself. The purpose of the study was to find a link between crochet and well-being. In the survey conducted, most of the female subjects reported that they felt more creative, relaxed, as well as experienced a sense of accomplishment while crocheting.

The study also reported that the crocheting made the respondents feel more calm, happy, and more useful. It was also reported that there was significant improvement in reported scores for mood before and after crocheting. The study provides ample data which suggests that crocheting as a hobby offers positive benefits for personal well-being of majority of respondents who engage in crocheting to manage mental health issue, grief, chronic illness, and pain as well. As crocheting is comparatively low-cost, and a kind of activity which you can engage in anywhere at any time (portability factor of crocheting), and is quite easy to learn, it can provide similar benefits resulting from knitting. It seems that the respondents experienced the mental health benefits of crocheting as much as from the act itself—the sense of accomplishment of creating something—and they also experience a sense of community connection (online crochet communities). All this suggests that women who, on a regular basis, engage in crocheting as a hobby experience real positive mental health impact of the act.

The findings of the study are also in line with the findings of previous studies highlighting benefits of engaging in other types of crafts. In one such study knitting was found to benefit patients with eating disorders by lowering anxiety causing preoccupations about eating, weight, and shape control. In another study, cognitive benefits of crafts were highlighted among older adults, it was found that older adults who were experts in crafting activities had better spatial skills. Yet another study highlighted the advantages of quilting, in which participants found quilting to be a prolific use of time. Participants learned new skills while quilting; they also experienced enhanced concentration as it is a challenging task, while the colors used felt psychologically uplifting to the participants.

All these findings suggest that simple and low-cost hobbies like crocheting, quilting, or other crafting activities can have a positive impact on your mental health apart from producing beautiful outcomes.

Pendulum for hypnosis

Study Indicates Hypnosis may Offer a Genuine Alternative to Painkillers

A recent study has shown that hypnosis can reduce pain by up to 42% and may offer a genuine alternative to painkillers. The research was led by psychologist Dr Trevor Thompson of the University of Greenwich. Published in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, the findings of the study revealed that hypnosis is more effective with people who are especially amenable to suggestion. However, those who are moderately suggestible—essentially most people—experienced a 29% drop in pain.

The research included data from 85 studies across 14 countries, with a total of 3,632 people subjected to different forms of pain stimulation such as heat, extreme cold, exercise, pressure, and even lasers. On a scale of zero to 10, people typically rated the pain they felt as 5.5. “To put that in context, a five level of pain would significantly disrupt our daily lives and have most of us using medication,” told Dr Thompson.

He said, “This is by far the largest review of its kind, examining the effects of hypnosis in over 3,500 people, and presents very compelling evidence. About 15% of the population are highly receptive to hypnosis, and those people saw just over a 40% drop in pain.” Furthermore, “Based on these findings most people would experience around a 30% drop in pain or more, which is generally considered to be clinically meaningful pain relief,” Dr Thompson added.

According to researchers these findings suggest that hypnotic intervention could provide “meaningful pain relief for most people” and, therefore, may be an “effective and safe alternative” to medication. “It can be administered quickly, cheaply and easily at home with a 20-minute audio recording,” they said.

Dr Thompson emphasized that the misuse of prescription painkillers such as codeine and fentanyl had increased hugely over the past few years and was a crisis in some countries, especially the US.

“The next step is to extensively test hypnosis on people with chronic pain, such as back conditions, which people live with every day. Available data on this are not of a high enough quality or quantity. We need to go and try this with people in their day-to-day lives,” told Dr Thompson.

Fish oil capsules

Omega-3 Supplements may Improve Attention in Some Individuals with ADHD

A new study published in the journal Translational Psychiatry has showed that omega-3 fish oil supplements can improve attention in some youths and children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Scientists at King’s College London in the United Kingdom and China Medical University in Taichung, Taiwan, examined the impact of omega-3 fish oil supplements on cognitive function in people with ADHD. The study involved a randomized controlled trial including 92 individuals with ADHD whose ages ranged from 6 to 18 years.

The participants were given high doses of omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) or a placebo for 12 weeks. The results revealed that out of all the individuals who received the supplement, those who had the lowest levels of EPA in their blood showed improvement in focused attention and vigilance. Whereas, those whose levels of EPA were normal or high showed no such improvements. The study also revealed some adverse effects of taking omega-3 supplements. A rise in impulsivity was exhibited by those participants who had high blood levels of EPA and took the supplement.

The researchers opine that these results indicate a need for psychiatrists to take a personalized medicine approach when treating individuals with ADHD.

According to Carmine M. Pariante, the study’s author and a professor in the Department of Psychological Medicine at King’s College London, “The omega-3 supplements only worked in children that had lower levels of EPA in their blood, as if the intervention was replenishing a lack of this important nutrient.”

However, Pariante and his colleagues warn that the findings should not be a reason for parents and carers to start giving youths or children omega-3 supplements without first consulting a doctor.

The results of this study add to those of earlier research by the same team that found that ADHD was more common in youths with omega-3 deficiency.

Man smoking in the dark

Smoking may Increase Risk of Depression and Schizophrenia: Study

A new study, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, has revealed that smokers may be at greater risk of developing depression and schizophrenia. The study conducted by a team of scientists from the UK’s University of Bristol has re-emphasized that smoking can adversely affect mental health.

Instead of focusing on whether the smokers had a genetic predisposition to depression or schizophrenia, the scientists used genetic data to observe cause-and-effect relationships with smoking. Robyn Wootton, the study’s lead author, said in a statement, “Individuals with mental illness are often overlooked in our efforts to reduce smoking prevalence, leading to health inequalities. Our work shows that we should be making every effort to prevent smoking initiation and encourage smoking cessation because of the consequences to mental health as well as physical health.”

Data from 462,690 people of European ancestry was examined for this study using an approach known as Mendelian randomization. The latter involves identifying genetic variations associated with a trait, such as depression or schizophrenia, and then testing for those variations against an exposure, such as smoking, in a group of subjects. This enables scientists to examine whether this relationship is causal or not.

The scientists concluded that whereas smoking increased the risk of depression and schizophrenia, individuals with depression and schizophrenia are also more liable to smoke. The authors, however, noted that the association was weaker in those with schizophrenia. The team further found that smoking also increases the risk of bipolar disorder, in another Mendelian randomization study published in September 2019. The scientists recommended that psychiatric hospitals be made smoke-free to prevent harmful effects on mental health.

On the other hand, a retired consultant psychiatrist and honorary professor at University College London and Queen Mary University of London, David Curtis, although not involved in the study, interprets its results differently to the authors.

Curtis says he doesn’t think it’s plausible that smoking acts directly on the brain to increase schizophrenia risk, and the results likely show the effect of mothers’ smoking when they were pregnant—a risk factor for schizophrenia. “So what we are likely seeing is that the mothers of people with schizophrenia were at a higher genetic risk of smoking, smoked during pregnancy and thereby increased the risk of schizophrenia developing in their children,” Curtis said in a statement. “And of course they would then also pass on an increased genetic risk of smoking to those children, which is what this study is picking up,” he added.

According to a Lancet Psychiatry Commission report published in July 2019, people with mental illness die up to 20 years earlier than the general population. Another study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry in January 2018 found that the use of either marijuana or cigarettes is related to a greater risk of psychotic-like experiences in teenagers. Psychosis  is a mental condition characterized by a disconnection from reality causing hallucinations or delusions.

Air Pollution Linked to Mental Health Issues in Children: Studies

Researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Cincinnati, have underscored the link between air pollution and mental health in children in a series of three new studies.

One of the studies published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives demonstrated that short-term exposure to environmental air pollution was related to worsening of symptoms of psychiatric disorders in children one to two days later, as marked by increased use of the emergency department for psychiatric issues in Cincinnati Children’s.

The study also revealed that children living in underprivileged localities may be more prone to the effects of air pollution in comparison with other children, especially for disorders related to anxiety and sui**dality.

The above study was led by Cole Brokamp, PhD, and Patrick Ryan, PhD, researchers in the division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at Cincinnati Children’s. According to the Dr Brokamp, “This study is the first to show an association between daily outdoor air pollution levels and increased symptoms of psychiatric disorders, like anxiety and sui**dality, in children. More research is needed to confirm these findings, but it could lead to new prevention strategies for children experiencing symptoms related to a psychiatric disorder. The fact that children living in high poverty neighborhoods experienced greater health effects of air pollution could mean that pollutant and neighborhood stressors can have synergistic effects on psychiatric symptom severity and frequency.”

Two previous studies by researchers from Cincinnati Children’s have also linked air pollution to children’s mental health. Published in the journal Environmental Research, the study led by Kelly Brunst, PhD, a researcher in the department of Environmental Health at the University of Cincinnati, and Kim Cecil, PhD, a researcher at Cincinnati Children’s, found a relation between recent high traffic related air pollution (TRAP) exposure and higher generalized anxiety. This study is believed to be the first to use neuroimaging to relate TRAP exposure, metabolic disturbances in the brain, and generalized anxiety symptoms among otherwise healthy children. Higher myoinositol concentrations in the brain—a marker of the brain’s neuroinflammatory response to TRAP was observed.

Another study, also published in Environmental Research, and led by Kimberly Yolton, PhD, director of research in the division of General and Community Pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s, and Dr. Ryan revealed that exposure to TRAP during early life and across childhood was significantly linked with self-reported depression and anxiety symptoms in 12-year-olds. Similar findings have been reported in adults too, but research demonstrating clear connections between TRAP exposure and mental health in children has been limited.

“Collectively, these studies contribute to the growing body of evidence that exposure to air pollution during early life and childhood may contribute to depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems in adolescence,” states Dr Ryan. “More research is needed to replicate these findings and uncover underlying mechanisms for these associations.”

Reference: Cole Brokamp, Jeffrey R. Strawn, Andrew F. Beck, Patrick Ryan. Pediatric Psychiatric Emergency Department Utilization and Fine Particulate Matter: A Case-Crossover Study. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2019; 127 (9): 097006 DOI: 10.1289/ehp4815

sad teenage girl sitting by the window

Oral Contraceptives may Increase Risk for Depressive Symptoms Among Teens

A recent study by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) and Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands has provided new insight into whether there is any connection between oral contraceptive use and mood.

The study published in JAMA Psychiatry included a survey of young women about depressive symptoms, such as crying, sleeping excessively, and eating issues, which can be far subtler than diagnosed clinical depression. The investigators surveyed a cohort of more than 1,000 women from age 16 through 25 years, every three years, and collected a unique set of data about these sub-clinical symptoms.

The study demonstrated that there was no association between oral contraceptive use and severity of depressive symptom in the whole population that had been investigated. However, it was found that 16-year-old girls reported higher depressive symptom severity in comparison to 16-year-old girls not consuming birth-control pills.

The corresponding author of the study, Anouk de Wit, MD, PhD said, “One of the most common concerns women have when starting the pill, and teens and their parents have when an adolescent is considering taking the pill, is about immediate depressive risks.” De Wit now a trainee in the Department of Psychiatry at UMCG, further added, “Most women first take an oral contraceptive pill as a teen. Teens have lots of challenging emotional issues to deal with so it’s especially important to monitor how they are doing.”

According to co-author Hadine Joffe, MD, MSc, vice chair for Psychiatry Research for the Brigham’s Department of Psychiatry and executive director of the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology, theirs is the “first study of this scale to dive deep into the more subtle mood symptoms that occur much more commonly than a depression episode but impact quality of life and are worrying to girls, women and their families.”

For this study, the researchers analyzed data from Tracking Adolescents’ Individual Lives Survey (TRAILS), a longitudinal study of teens and young adults from the Netherlands. Each female participant filled out a survey with questions about depressive symptoms, such as crying, suicidal ideation, self-harm, eating, sleeping, feelings of worthlessness and guilt, energy, sadness, and lack of pleasure. A depressive symptom severity score was generated based on the responses of those participants.

It was found that the association between oral contraceptive use and depressive symptoms may be bidirectional: birth-control pill intake may contribute to severity of symptoms, more severe symptoms may prompt teens to begin taking oral contraceptives, or both. Observational studies, such as this one, cannot however confirm the direction of causality.

depiction of human brain

Memories: How Do They Form and Fade?

Have you ever wondered why some of your childhood memories are still fresh in your mind even after decades, while some recent ones fade in minutes? Researchers have recently discovered the neural processes that cause some memories to fade quickly while making other memories stable over time.

Using mouse models, researchers from California Institute of Technology have determined that strong, stable memories are encoded by “teams” of neurons all working in synchrony, providing redundancy that enables these memories to stay over time. The study helps in understanding how brain damage due to strokes or Alzheimer’s disease may affect memory.

Published in the journal, Science, the study was conducted at Biology research professor, Carlos Lois’s laboratory. The professor is also an affiliated faculty member of the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience at Caltech.

The team, led by Walter Gonzalez, a postdoctoral scholar developed a test to examine mice’s neural activity as they learn about and remember a new place. In the test, mice explored a 5-feet-long enclosure where unique symbols denoted different locations along its white walls. A treat (sugar water) for mice was place at both ends of the track. The activity of specific neurons in the mouse hippocampus (the region of the brain where new memories are formed) known to encode for places, was measured while the mouse walked around.

The researcher noted that when a mouse was first put in the track, it was not certain about what to do and so moved left and right until it came across the treat. In these cases, when a mouse took notice of a wall symbol, single neurons were activated. But over several experiences with the track, the mouse became familiar with it and remembered the site of the treat. As it became more familiar, more and more neurons were synchronously activated by seeing each symbol on the wall. Basically, the mouse was recognizing its own location with respect to each unique symbol.

In order to investigate how memories fade over time, the researchers then withheld mice from the enclosure for up to 20 days. Upon coming back to the track after the sabbatical, mice that had formed strong memories encoded by higher numbers of neurons remembered the task promptly. The mouse’s memory of the track was clearly identifiable when analyzing the activity of large groups of neurons, in spite of some neurons showing different activity. Alternatively, using groups of neurons enables the brain to recall memories while having redundancy, even if some of the original neurons fall silent or are damaged.

Gonzalez clarifies, “Imagine you have a long and complicated story to tell. In order to preserve the story, you could tell it to five of your friends and then occasionally get together with all of them to re-tell the story and help each other fill in any gaps that an individual had forgotten. Additionally, each time you re-tell the story, you could bring new friends to learn and therefore help preserve it and strengthen the memory. In an analogous way, your own neurons help each other out to encode memories that will persist over time.”

While earlier theories about memory storage suggest that making a memory more stable requires the strengthening of the connections to an individual neuron, this study proposes that increasing the number of neurons encoding the same memory enables the memory to stay for longer. The study has great implications for designing future treatment that could boost the recruitment of a higher number of neurons to encode a memory, and could help prevent memory loss.

man working on laptop in dark

Study Indicates Why Worry Influences Concentration on Everyday Tasks

A recent research has demonstrated that worry affects regions of the brain that are crucial  for concentration. The study was conducted by researchers from the Department of Psychology in the University of Roehampton, London. Professor Paul Allen and his colleagues from the Department have examined how worry influences ‘attentional control’ or the brain areas that are involved in concentration.

The study involved the assessment of the participants for determining how often and how intensely they face worrying thoughts. They participants were made to undergo a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scan while carrying out a task requiring different levels of attentional control. The scan results indicated that, whilst all participants were able to effectively complete the task, higher levels of worry were associated with greater activity and reduced connectivity in the attentional control regions of the brain. This was evident particularly in the frontal cortex. This shows that worry impair attentional control particularly when task demands are high.

Professor Allen said “Everyone worries about things from time to time—some people more than others. Psychologists have known for some time that worry can affect our concentration, especially when we need to focus on difficult tasks. This finding suggests that worry can lead to less efficient use of neural resources and may explain why worry affects our ability to concentrate on everyday tasks.”

The study has significant implications for the understanding of how the brain and its ability to function normally are affected by emotions like worry and anxiety.

Also read:
Five Ways to Boost Your Concentration

Adele smiling

Celebrity Fat Shaming Adversely Affects All Women, Study

Celebrities, particularly female celebrities, are customarily criticized about their appearance in magazines and newspapers. While we generally don’t give much importance to those nasty headlines assuming they are trivial, little do we realize that the effects of such comments can extend well beyond the targeted person and ripple through the population at large.

A recent research published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, a journal of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, has shown that fat shaming celebrities may negatively impact all women’s body image or their attitude about their body.

Psychologists from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada used data collected from more than 93,000 women, predominantly from North America, between 2004 to 2015 and compared 20 instances of celebrity fat shaming with women’s implicit attitudes about weight two weeks before and two weeks after each celebrity fat-shaming event. The investigators found that there was an association between instances of celebrity fat shaming and an increase in women’s implicit negative weight-related attitudes. The fat-shaming events led to a spike in women’s implicit anti-fat attitudes, with more “notorious” events producing greater spikes. Besides, the researchers also found that implicit weight-bias was on the rise more generally.

“Fat shaming is socially acceptable and it’s so common we don’t know how pervasive it is. No one even bats an eyelash at it or thinks about how terrible it is for that person. But the consequences affect more than just the target of fat shaming,” said Amanda Ravary, a Ph.D. student at McGill University and the lead author of the study.

Jennifer Bartz, the study’s senior author and an associate professor of psychology at McGill University explained, “When you look at a headline and think, ‘This is terrible,’ that is your explicit attitude. Implicit attitude is whether you think something is good or bad.”

Explicit attitudes are those, which people consciously endorse and which are often susceptible to concerns about social desirability and presenting oneself in the most positive light. By contrast, implicit attitudes, around which this investigation also revolved, indicate people’s split-second gut-level reactions that something is inherently good or bad. Implicit attitudes are generally believed to be developed over a lifetime. “We constantly receive messages that things are good or bad, and the more we hear them, the stronger the association is,” Bartz explained. “These cultural messages appeared to augment women’s gut-level feeling that ‘thin’ is good and ‘fat’ is bad. These media messages can leave a private trace in people’s minds,” she added.

The next step in this research will be to include lab research, which would enable the researchers to manipulate exposure to fat-shaming messages (vs. neutral messages) and gauge the effect of these messages on women’s implicit anti-fat attitudes. The lab research is likely to provide more direct proof of the causal role of these cultural cues in women’s implicit attitudes.

Also read
Choose Wisely: People Around You Affect Your Body Image
8 Ways to Build a Positive and Healthy Body Image

mother taking away tablet from the child

Is Digital-Addiction a Real Menace to Children?

More and more children these days are battling digital addiction. They are being exposed to electronic devices at much younger ages, and we often watch them spending hours gazing at cell-phone/tablet or computer screens. According to experts, digital addiction is as potent as meth and can have alarming effects on children. It is extremely important to apply moderation, when it comes to screens or screen-time and we as parents must teach our children how to use them in a healthy way.

According to Dr Dimitri A. Christakis, Director, Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development, Seattle Children’s Research Institute and professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, children use the devices along a continuum which ranges from healthy to compulsive to addictive. “I think the phenomenon of tech addiction is quite real,” he said.

In the commentary published in JAMA, Dr Christakis suggested that the relationship between media exposure and health in adolescents might turn out to follow an “inverted U” pattern. Thus, very high exposure and very low exposure might both be associated with poorer mental health outcomes than moderate amounts of usage.

However, though technology-use is as powerful as drugs, it is not analogous to drug use at all because these devices serve important purposes in our lives, including children’s. We as well as children need technology to do the day-to-day chores and stay connected but it is pertinent, given its adverse effects, to find healthy ways to use it adequately before its takes over.

Dr Ellen Selkie, an assistant professor of adolescent medicine at the University of Michigan, who does research on adolescents’ use of social media, said, “It’s like food, it’s something we all need because of the way businesses run, because of the job market—and for teens it’s the way they socialize.”

According to Dr Selkie, there is evidence that supports limitations on the absolute amount of screen time with younger children but the situation is more complicated, with older children. This is because, it is not that simple to make out whether a teen who is always on the phone, is there due to addiction or because that is where his friends are. It is normal for a teen to always want to be talking to his or her friends rather than the family.

However, just like other aspects of life that contribute to our overall well-being, it requires daily decisions on the user’s part to keep his or her technology-usage within healthy limits. Saying that one should altogether bring it down to zero is neither sensible nor acceptable given the benefits technology provides; however, we can certainly curb before we become its slaves instead of masters.

Dr Jenny Radesky, an assistant professor of developmental behavioral pediatrics at the University of Michigan and an expert on technology use by children, equates technology to “an environment.” It is a place where all sorts of activities take place, from work to entertainment to social life. However, she cautions that it is a deliberately designed and engineered environment, with an ultimate goal of making money. “Modern technologies is purposefully habit-forming and programmed with the sort of variable rewards that keep humans engaged.” she adds. It is important to not fall prey to it because it can potentially impact our healthiness in a negative way.

Dr Radesky also emphasizes that rather than the concerned individual, or the so-called addict, the problem lies with the digital environment which is shaping the individual’s behavior, often through methods that are intentionally exploitative or subconscious.

Therefore, it is essential for children to understand the way technology works for or against them. Parents can play a significant role in imparting and demystifying information and making their children more digitally literate.

While researchers often talk about the difficulty they experience in trying to understand and quantify children’s use of devices, Dr Christakis in his commentary, points out how while the required information is routinely—and efficiently—gathered by the industry and applied to increase the charm of the devices and the programs, people in academia and research are struggling to get the data needed to put together coherent and extensive guidelines for parents and policymakers. Dr Christakis, thus, suggests that an increased cooperation between industry and researchers might help in setting up those guidelines.

According to Dr Selkie, there are ways for tech companies and even game designers to be more thoughtful about children and to discourage problematic internet use.

In the meanwhile, parents should do their part and start with asking their children to put down their cell-phones while dinner or on family outings and gradually proceed to setting limits on per day screen-time. Parents themselves should also be mindful of their own use of devices and set good examples for their children.

Also read:
8 Ways to Prevent and Address Your Child’s Addiction to Smart Devices
The 4 Personal Traits That Make It Hard to Take Criticism
Study Explains Why People Lie
Why Children Lie and What Parents Can Do to Prevent It

a man taking a peldge while lying

Study Explains Why People Lie

We all were probably taught to never lie but there would be rarely anyone who can truthfully claim that he or she doesn’t lie or hasn’t lied in life, ever. Depending upon the demands of the situation, we might tell a lie for harmless reasons like to avoid awkward situations, protect others, or avoid hurting others’ feelings, or, for some other reasons that are much serious and can potentially wreak havoc on our lives. However, there are some people who lie out of habit. And, the more they lie, the easier and more frequent this behaviour becomes. Scientists have now discovered why liars lie.

Psychologists believe that children start lying at the age of two. Since lying involves paying attention to the environment, complex planning, and the ability to manipulate a situation, it is actually considered a crucial milestone in children’s development. While growing up, they keep on learning how to use this skill for their own benefit, and by the time they reach adulthood, their lies become much more clever, harder to catch, and easier to get away with.

Cognitive neuroscientist Joshua Greene from Harvard University investigated the physical process of lying during an experiment. Participants were given the opportunity to win money by lying. While some of them still stuck to being honest and told the truth, others resorted to deception. The MRI of the participants was performed to examine their brain activity during the study. The MRI reports revealed that there was an increased activity in the frontal parietal control network of the group of liars because deciding between honesty and lying requires hard and intricate thinking. Since the neural reward centers of the participants who won money by telling lies were more active, it can be assumed that lying may be a result of the inability to resist temptation.

However, there is still no scientific explanation as to why people tend to avoid lying and whether it is a result of conflict in their brains or an understanding of morality and self-control, or simply following the social norm. According to Dan Ariely, a behavioral psychologist at Duke, “We are our own judge about our own honesty. And that internal judge is what differentiates psychopaths and non-psychopaths.”

Apparently, despite that the urge to lie comes from within, external factors can influence the frequency too. Research has shown that people tend to be dishonest when they are suffering from stress or lack of sleep, or when they see others lying. “We as a society need to understand that when we don’t punish lying, we increase the probability it will happen again,” Ariely added.

Ariely and his colleagues conducted a study to show the change in participants’ brain while they are being dishonest. The study revealed that there was an increased activity in their amygdala, a part of the brain responsible for producing fear, anxiety and emotions. This change made lying or being dishonest easier for those participants. The signals from the amygdala reduced when they expected no consequences for being dishonest, such as when playing a game. Cognitive neuroscientist at University College London, Tali Sharot, who led the research said, “If you give people multiple opportunities to lie for their own benefit, they start with little lies and get bigger and bigger over time.”

three women laughing

Choose Wisely: People Around You Affect Your Body Image

Hanging out with people who are not consumed by their appearance is beneficial to your body image and can improve your eating habits, a new study by the researchers from the University of Waterloo revealed. The study appeared in Body Image, An International Journal of Research.

The researchers examined how body image is influenced by social interactions. In consonance with the previous findings that being around people preoccupied with their bodies was detrimental, the researchers also found that spending time with people who are non-body focused had a positive effect on the body image.

“Our research suggests that social context has a meaningful impact on how we feel about our bodies in general and on a given day,” said Kathryn Miller, PhD candidate in clinical psychology at Waterloo. “Specifically, when others around us are not focused on their body it can be helpful to our own body image,” she added.

Allison Kelly, a psychology professor in clinical psychology at Waterloo and former Waterloo undergraduate Elizabeth Stephen had also joined Miller in this study.

In the study, researchers asked 92 female undergraduate students aged 17 to 25 to complete a daily diary over seven consecutive days and reflected on their interactions with body focused and non-body focused people.

The researchers assessed the frequency of participant’s daily interactions with body focused and non-body focused individuals, their degree of body appreciation, i.e., how much one values their body irrespective of its size or shape, and body satisfaction, and whether they ate intuitively in accordance with their hunger and cravings rather than fixating on their dietary and weight goals.

According to Kelly, “Body dissatisfaction is ubiquitous and can take a huge toll on our mood, self-esteem, relationships, and even the activities we pursue.” She further added, “It’s important to realize that the people we spend time with actually influence our body image. If we are able to spend more time with people who are not preoccupied with their bodies, we can actually feel much better about our own bodies.”

The findings also revealed that spending more time with non-body focused people may help in preventing disordered eating and promoting more intuitive eating.

Miller contends, “If more women try to focus less on their weight or shape, there may be a ripple effect shifting societal norms for women’s body image in a positive direction. It is also important for women to know that they have an opportunity to positively impact those around them through how they relate to their own bodies.”

Also read 8 Ways to Build a Positive and Healthy Body Image

a woman undergoing ct scan in front of a doctor

Peer Pressure Influences CT Scan Use for Dizziness/Vertigo Patients

It is usually believed that peer pressure ends when a person becomes an adult. But this is, unfortunately, not the case. Adults are just as much subject to peer pressure as children and youth. Peer pressure is when a person or group of people attempts to cause another person to conform to some type of uniform code. Peer pressure among adults can happen anywhere, even at workplace and in general work practices.

A new study published in the journal Medicine has shown that peer pressure among emergency physicians (EPs) plays an important role in the use of computed tomography (CT) imaging, also known as CT scan, for dizziness or vertigo patients. A team comprising researchers from Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Niao-Sung, Taiwan and Chang Gung University College of Medicine, Taoyuan City, Taiwan evaluated the effect of peer pressure on decision making in EPs to use CT scan for patients with dizziness/vertigo.

Dizziness is a common complaint in the emergency department (ED), accounting for 2.5% of all ED visits in the United States. While the most common causes of dizziness/vertigo are benign, a potentially serious underlying disease, such as cerebellar or brain stem stroke, may go unnoticed. Due to the uncertainty and cost of a misdiagnosis, EPs may reduce the testing threshold for brain imaging in handling these low-probability, high-morbidity situations. But unnecessary head CT examination may lead to prolonged ED stay, increased medical costs, and exposure to radiation (a potential carcinogen).

The use of CT imaging to examine patients presenting with dizziness has increased exceedingly, from 9.4% to 37.4% in the United States between 1995 and 2009. A previous study had showed that EPs vary in their respective decisions to either admit or discharge general ED patients. Senior EPs were found to have lower discharge rates compared with their junior colleagues.

The purpose of this study was, therefore, to evaluate the peer-pressure effect on the decisions of CT use for dizziness/vertigo patients by EPs with varying seniority. The EPs were categorized into 3 groups according to seniority. Group “>V12” consisted of 10 senior physicians with more than 12 years of work experience. Group “V7-V12” consisted of 9 physicians with 7 to 12 years of work experience (intermediate seniority). Group “<V7” consisted of 10 junior physicians with <7 years of work experience.

The study intervention used a behavior modifying measure by creating a “team norm” that imposed an unspoken peer pressure effect by announcing the CT-use rate of each EP by monthly e-mail reminders. Norms are the rules that the team agrees to follow and designate a standard for average performance by the whole team. Once developed, team norms are used to guide and shape team members’ behavior.

The authors explained, “To evaluate the effectiveness of peer pressure on changing EP decisions concerning CT use for dizziness/vertigo patients, we created a ‘team norm’ imposed peer-pressure effect by announcing the CT use rate of each EP through monthly e-mail reminders. We also conducted a before-and-after retrospective case review of patients who visited the ED.”

The study was conducted in a tertiary academic medical center in Southern Taiwan with over 2500 acute beds and an average of 72,000 adult ED visits per year. The medical records of nontraumatic patients who were older than 17 years of age and visited the ED with a principal diagnosis of dizziness and vertigo were extracted from the ED administrative database using the International Classifications of Diseases Tenth Revision coding system.

“Our study group consisted of 3165 patients; 1657 were enrolled in pre-intervention group while 1508 were enrolled in post-intervention group. Patients were assessed by the 29 EPs in the department,” the authors said.

The intervention strategy presented herein applied peer pressure through e-mail reminders. The findings of the study revealed a decrease in CT use for patients with isolated dizziness/vertigo, particularly among junior EPs and in younger patients. Although the study has a few limitations pertaining to the generalizability of its conclusions to other ED settings, the method used in this study offers a promising option that can effectively decrease CT use and unnecessary medical costs in ED.

Also read 10 Techniques to Help Your Child Resist Peer Pressure

Living Alone May Increase Mental Health Risk, Study

A new study has revealed that living alone is linked to common mental disorders (CMDs) such as mood disorders, anxiety, and substance use disorders. As per some studies, almost one-third of people will experience a CMD in their lifetime. As CMDs impact not just the individual but the society as well due to their high prevalence, scientists want to comprehend all the risk factors for mental illness.

Over the past few years, researchers have been exploring whether living alone might be one such risk factor. A new study published in the journal PLOS One concludes that there is a link between living alone and CMDs. The findings also reveal that it affects all age groups and genders, and that loneliness is the predominant driver. The authors of the new study aimed to fill in the gaps in the previous studies sought links between living alone and CMDs in general, rather than focusing on just one mental condition like depression, etc. and they examined which factors seemed to be influencing the relationship.

For the study, the scientists from the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines in France analyzed data comprising 20,503 adults, ages 16 – 74, living in England. The three National Psychiatric Morbidity Surveys conducted in 1993, 2000, and 2007 provided the data on a range of variables, including height and weight, level of education, employment status, alcohol and drug use, social support, and feelings of loneliness, for the study. The study participants were asked to complete Clinical Interview Schedule-Revised questionnaires, to assess if they had experienced any neurotic symptoms during the previous week.

Not only did the authors find the number of people living alone having steadily grown with 8.8% in1993, 9.8% in 2000, and 10.7% in 2007, their analysis also demonstrated that across all age groups and genders, there was a substantial correlation between living alone and having a CMD. The size of this relationship was fairly alike across all three surveys. CMDs were more common in those living alone than those not living alone—in 1993 it was 19.9% in those living alone vs. 13.6% in those not living alone; in 2000, 23.2% vs. 15.5%; and in 2007, 24.7% vs. 15.4%.

When the scientists probed deeper into the association between CMDs and living alone, they found that loneliness explained 84% of it. As mental health problems are a growing concern, the understanding of the risk factors associated with CMDs might help reverse the trend. Unlike those who live alone but don’t feel lonely, the ones who do, may seek interventions such as talking therapies, social care provisions, and animal-based interventions, to deal with loneliness.

The authors acknowledge that the study has certain limitations. For instance, it was a cross-sectional study, that is, it looked at a glimpse of people at one point in time. Therefore, longitudinal studies are required to establish how this relationship might play out over time. Further, the study could not assess the cause-and-effect relation between the two variables.

Therefore, it was not possible to find out through this study whether a person developed a CMD ‘because’ he or she lived alone, or whether he or she developed a CMD and ‘then’ decided to live alone. Also, probably, an individual with a predisposition for CMDs is more likely to want living alone. Apparently, more studies need to be conducted to fill in these gaps.

While earlier studies showed loneliness to be linked with depression and anxiety and therefore, back up the results of this study, the new findings go a few steps further in showing that the relationship between mental health and living alone is stable across time, that the link is not restricted to older adults, and that loneliness plays a key role.