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

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The Most Subtle Yet Insidious Forms of Passive Aggression

Microaggressions that should not go unchecked.

Overtly aggressive people may be hard to stay clear off, but they are not hard to miss. Passive-aggressive people, by contrast, use much more subtle tactics to aggress against you. But passive aggression can be just as insidious and hurtful as its overt sibling.

Passive aggression can be extremely upsetting because we are very good at picking up on even the most subtle forms of hostile behavior, even though we are not always consciously aware of what it is we are picking up on.

Your unconscious brain can detect barely noticeable changes in facial expression, body language, body posture and direction, and changes in behavioral patterns. Once your unconscious brain detects hostility in another person, it activates the amygdala—an area of the brain that processes fear—or other brain regions associated with a fight-or-flight response. This physiological change can make you feel anxious, fearful, worried, stressed out, or just ill at ease.

The special problem that passive aggression poses is that you often cannot put your finger on what is wrong. Your unconscious brain is telling you that the other person has negative feelings toward you. Yet because of the subtly of how the aggression is manifested, it’s easy to write it off as normal behavior, especially if the other person insists that nothing is wrong. For example, you feel that your partner is acting more distant toward you than they normally would. When you ask them, they say nothing is wrong. But the feeling that something is off doesn’t go away.

If you are continually exposed to passive-aggressive behavior from the same person, and they keep denying that anything is wrong, you may start to question your own judgment and ultimately your own sanity. However, the truth is that if you repeatedly feel that something is wrong, probably something is wrong. Although we are unusually adept at detecting passive aggression unconsciously, it takes more careful attention to consciously spot it. The following are a few examples of fairly common but exceptionally subtle forms of passive aggression.

Diminished Eye Contact

If a person you know fairly well isn’t making as much eye contact with you as they usually do over an extended period of time, then that’s a signal that something is wrong but that they are unwilling to tell you for whatever reason. Instead of talking to you, they choose to deal with their negative feelings by distancing themselves from you, which can manifest itself in subtle ways, such as diminished eye contact.

Diminished eye contact isn’t necessarily deliberate. Nor does it always imply that the other person is angry with you. They could be feeling guilty about something they have done to you. Or they could be dealing with problems that have nothing to do with you. But if it’s your business to know what’s going on, and they deliberately don’t tell you, then it’s passive aggression.

Persistent Forgetting

Continually forgetting to do something is another sign of passive aggression to watch out for. Some people are generally forgetful, disorganized, or easily distracted, but there are limits to how much forgetting you should put up with if people are otherwise mentally healthy.

The reason people deliberately forget, or deliberately do something that they know will make them forget, is that they really don’t want to do what they have promised you or what is expected of them. Yet they also don’t want to tell you that they don’t want to do what they promised or what’s expected. For example, if you have a standing agreement with your live-in partner that you put dirty dishes in the dishwasher immediately after using them instead of letting them pile up on the counter, but your partner frequently leaves dirty dishes behind, then it’s probably a sign of deliberate forgetting—or at least that’s a reasonable conclusion if you have confronted them, and it keeps happening.

Ignoring You During a Group Conversation

If a person is ignoring you when you pass them on the street or in the hallway, this could just be a sign that they are not very perceptive or that they need a new eyeglass prescription. But when there doesn’t seem to be any other rational explanation for why another person would ignore you, then they are most likely acting passive-aggressively.

This form of passive aggression may happen during a group conversation. Suppose you and your friend Sid from college are talking to the speaker after his or her talk, yet the speaker immediately direct their attention to Sid and begins asking him questions about his research interests, mostly ignoring you, that’s a very good sign that they probably think less of you or don’t like you for whatever reason. Their subtle behavior gives it away.

When people ignore you in a conversation, it can be somewhat less deliberate. For example, the speaker in the above scenario might have an implicit bias against you. Let’s suppose you are a woman and that the speaker implicitly thinks that Sid is smarter than you by virtue of being a man. In this case, the speaker’s subtly rude behavior is a form of bias-driven microaggression. But this does not rule out that the aggressor should be held accountable, because not all implicit biases are created equal.

If an outsider—call them Pat— had observed your group conversation and had noticed the speaker’s subtly hostile behavior toward you, Pat could have asked the speaker: “What were you just doing?” The speaker might answer: “I was asking Sid questions about his research interests.” But if questioned a bit further, perhaps they will eventually admit: “Yes, it’s true that I didn’t ask Sally about her work but I didn’t mean to act biased against her.” But in terms of the quality of the excuse, this is on a par with a murderer saying: “Yes, I stabbed her with a knife but I didn’t mean to harm her.”

Source link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-mysteries-love/201910/the-most-subtle-yet-insidious-forms-passive-aggression

Reducing the Stigma of Mental Illness in Middle School — Free Spirit Publishing Blog

As educators, we believe that the educational environment should be inclusive and welcoming to all students. We can celebrate vibrant cultures, recognize boundless gender roles, and identify shifting home lives. But the more we evolve, the more we see that there are also hidden characteristics and more discrete inclusions to consider. Students…

via Reducing the Stigma of Mental Illness in Middle School — Free Spirit Publishing Blog

Metacognition – a Fascinating Ability of the Human Mind — Thrive Global

It’s a bit like being in two places at the same time. Imagine a basketball game in a sports hall, where you play along and in the same time you watch yourself while playing from the stands. Meditation makes us aware of our inner dialogue and it leads to metacognition. This way we learn to…

via Metacognition – a Fascinating Ability of the Human Mind — Thrive Global

Cryptomnesia

Woman sitting on the typewriterCryptomnesia refers to a memory bias by which a person recalls a memory but misidentifies it as a new thought. This eerie process causes a forgotten memory to return without being recognized as a memory. The person does not consciously engage in plagiarism but he or she experiences the recollection as if it were a new or his own original idea. In social situations, cryptomnesia often comes up as an annoying idiosyncrasy, but it has far greater relevance for, and may result in serious consequences, in the art world. For instance, an artist or an author may commit plagiarism without even realizing what is happening. According to psychologists, cryptomnesia is a source-monitoring error which happens when we fail to register the source of information. As human brain amasses memories, details are ranked. In this filtering process, the origins of facts often fall secondary to the facts themselves. Cryptomnesia may, in fact, be a byproduct of an otherwise efficient memory system.

The McGurk Effect

The-McGurk-Effect written on black backgroundThe McGurk Effect is a perceptual phenomenon named after Scottish psychologist Harry McGurk, who was also co-author of the first article on the phenomenon, titled “Hearing Lips and Seeing Voices” which was published in Nature journal in 1976. The phenomenon involves an interaction between visual and auditory perception in speech. This occurs when sound of a speech does not match with the shape of the lips that produce that sound, thereby leading to perception of a word that actually has not been spoken at all. The best example would be when the video image of a person saying bay is dubbed with a sound corresponding to the usual pronunciation of the word gay causing the listener to perceive an intermediate word day. The brain, in this case, combines the auditory part of one sound with the visual perception of another sound, which ultimately results in the perception of a sound that was not even uttered. The phenomenon takes place when the listener is in a crowded room or when the speaker is speaking very softly and the former cannot hear the sound that well. The McGurk effect demonstrates that visual channel sends critical information not just to the people who are deaf but also to the listeners who can hear normally.

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