Light Therapy Could Help People with Bipolar Disorder

light therapy lamp on a drawer near window

A team of scientists is investigating whether light therapy could also help treat people with depression.

Light therapy is commonly used to treat people who suffer from SAD or the seasonal affective disorder. This condition affects a lot of people during the fall and winter or as the weather starts getting colder and the skies darker. A team of scientists is now trying to use light therapy to help people who suffer from bipolar disorder, especially ones diagnosed with depression.

The Other Uses of Light Therapy

Scientists mentioned that there is no clear motive for why people are more likely to feel sad and depressed from the lack of light. It was suggested that light helps the body produce serotonin. In turn, this might lead to a happier, more optimistic mood. Light therapy for depression consists in replacing the lost sunlight with a daily dose of white artificial light.

A light box the size of a laptop screen is being used for this still in trial mode therapy. Some people also named this lightbox the “happy box”. Scientists wanted to see if they could use this therapy for people with depression caused by bipolar disorder.

To conduct the study, the researchers monitored 46 people who suffered from this condition. Half of the participants were part of a control group and received a red placebo light treatment. The other half received the bright light therapy. All of the participants also took their medication during the study.

Also, all of them were instructed not to talk about the light therapy. They couldn’t discuss it with people from the other group and even from their own. The participants were told to place the light box at around 1 foot from their face and to start with 15 minutes sessions every day. Every week, the exposure was increased until it reached 60 minutes per day.

The researchers observed that after 4 to 6 weeks, 68% of the people who received the white light therapy achieved remission of depression. In comparison, only 22% of the people from the placebo group reached this. The study team mentioned that it is important for people with bipolar disorder not to try this therapy on their own. They point out that the study is at an early stage and that its side effects are still unknown.

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Children of Obese Mothers Could Have Neurodevelopmental Problems (Study)

adult hand being grasped by a baby hand

A study claims that children born to obese mothers might present higher risks of neurodevelopmental problems.

The weight of the mother can affect the brain development of their baby, claim the latest research. This new study shows that children born to obese mother present a higher risk of neurodevelopmental problems compared to the kids of normal-weight mothers. These former are at risk of suffering from attention deficit disorder, cognitive development delays, and autism.

The Weight-Related Neurodevelopmental Problems

Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University conducted this study. A meta-analysis, its results were published in the journal Obesity Reviews. It is the first research meta-analysis that investigates the correlation between the weight of the mother and the neurodevelopment of the child.

The researchers used data from 41 studies that examined the link between childhood brain development and maternal weight to conduct their analysis. Neurodevelopment problems cause permanent conditions that can affect a child’s health.

The risk of neurodevelopment problems in kids born from overweight women was 17% higher when compared to that of other newborns. This was then noted to have increased by 51% for kids born to obese mothers. The research team considers this to be a very important study considering the fact that more than 40% of women living in the US are categorized as obese.

A report from the CDC also showed that more children are experiencing neurodevelopment problems. In 2016, almost 15% of kids had at least one such issue.

Previous studies performed on animals showed the same correlation. Despite the fact that this new meta-analysis did not prove a cause and effect relation, it showed a negative association that is considered to be rather significant.

Researchers mentioned that the study results might help women understand the importance of maintaining a healthy weight before and during their pregnancy. Scientists also stated that women need to be better informed on the matter. The researchers consider that this could help the expectant mothers lose weight before the pregnancy, especially if they are obese or even overweight.

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Sleep Deprivation Can Reduce Depression Symptoms, Claims New Study

a hand over a cover with swirly models on a person with sleep deprivation

According to a new study, sleep deprivation might be a helpful, short-term way of improving the symptoms of depression.

A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine found that sleep deprivation might actually help reduce the symptoms of depression. Results from the research show that up to 50 percent of the people suffering from depression might temporarily benefit from a short-term lack of sleep.

Sleep Deprivation Combats Depression But Is Not a Solution

The lack of sleep is often regarded as a symptom of a depressive mood disorder. It has long been thought that lack of sleep results in an irritable mood. However, it might seemingly also help curb some depression symptoms.

Elaine Boland, the study’s lead researcher, explains that individuals across different populations benefitted from the loss of sleep. This was not noted to hold regardless of the type of deprivation, be it partial or total. The sort of medicine administered as well as what the definition of response was or how the outcome was measured also seemingly did not affect the results.

Researchers took into account both partial (20-21 hours without sleeping) and total sleep deprivation (36 hours without sleeping). Their analysis included data gathered from sources dating between 1974 to 2016.

The connection between a lack of sleep and improving one’s mood actually goes back to 19th century Germany. Psychiatrist Johann Christian August Heinroth asserted that a lack of sleep seemed to improve melancholia symptoms in his patients. He even used sleep deprivation as a therapeutic tool for melancholic patients.

The therapeutic use of deprivation in a clinical setting is still a controversial subject since the lack of sleep is often associated with the possible development of mental illness. However, as some researchers suggest, one night of deprivation could lead to the brain being able to reset its circadian rhythm the following evening.

While deprivation seems to provide some temporary relief from the symptoms of a depressive mood, it should not be used on the long-term. It should also not come in the way of making helpful lifestyle changes. Ones that will promote a more sustainable improvement in mood.

The study’s findings and results are presented in a paper released in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 

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A Sedentary Lifestyle Can Lead To Early Death, Warns Study

a man with a couch potato shirt sitting with remotes on him and a sedentary lifestyle

People with a sedentary lifestyle that sit for longer than 30 minutes at a time present a higher mortality risk.

Having a sedentary lifestyle and failing to stretch for more than 30 minutes can increase the risks of early death, according to a new study. Although not the first research to target this year, this one nonetheless attempts to rectify the limitations of previous such analyses.

A Sedentary Lifestyle or Having Bouts of Inactivity Longer Than 30 Minutes at a Time

This latest research monitored about 8000 Caucasian and Africa-American participants over a period of seven days. All those involved in the study were aged 45 or older. Accelerometers placed on their hips helped monitor each person’s periods of activity and inactivity throughout the day. A follow-up four years later revealed that 340 of the participants had died.

By analyzing the collected data, the team determined that the participants that had a less than 30 minutes bout of inactivity presented the lowest risks of early death. In contrast, for people with a sedentary lifestyle, for every half hour of inactivity, their risks of an early death rose by around 19 percent.

Closely monitoring the participants helped determine their median sedentary pattern, which established to be of 12.3 hours in a 16-hours day. Each of their sedentary bouts was established to extend, on average, for 11.4 minutes.

Study Limitations and Measures Against Them

The analysis also took into account the age, race, sex, BMI, and exercise habits of the participants. These helped determine that the length of a sedentary bout was also important and a factor in the spike in mortality rates. This comes beside the total number of hours spent in a sedentary way, which was already included.

“We furthermore studied how long is too long for sitting bouts. We found that those individuals who frequently kept their sitting bouts to less than 30 minutes had a lower risk of death,” stated Keith Diaz, the study lead and part of the Columbia University Medical Center.

This also reportedly continued by saying that people that sat for more than 13 hours every day presented a 200 percent higher risk of death.

As it is, researchers not part of the study point out that one of the limitations of this study is the fact that the results can vary according to the health levels, ethnicity, and race of the people.

Still, specialists do agree with the study’s advice of stretching or standing or moving around at regular intervals.

Current research findings are available in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

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Starbucks Begins Pumpkin Spice Latte Craze

Strbucks pumpkin spice latte and brownieEach fall, when the leaves start changing their colors and they fall, forming lovely carpets on the streets, something else happens. With the chilly weather outside, you need a beverage to keep you warm and cozy. This is why, every fall, Starbucks introduces its famous and highly popular Pumpkin Spice Latte. And this year is no different. The flavored beverage officially became available on September 5. However, if you want to have one, you’ll have to hurry a bit. With its growing popularity and limited time at Starbucks, you may not get a taste of it this fall. And that would really be a shame.

The Pumpkin Spice craze

However, you should already know by now that Starbucks are not the only ones releasing pumpkin spice-flavored products. Nowadays, there are all sorts of foods which have this flavor and are waiting to be tasted. This trend has become so popular that it even started annoying some people, especially those who simply don’t like this flavor. This is a horrible time for them because they’ll have to search thoroughly in order to find a bag of Oreos which are not pumpkin-flavored. And this goes for almost everything else. From coffee, to sweets, milk, candles and even room fresheners.

However, for those who love this flavor, this is a time of joy and happiness. And it surely begins when you have a Pumpkin Spice Latte in your hands. However, some people have complained about companies forcing the issue and releasing those products a bit too early to gain as much profit as possible. And they are right. It’s not nice to walk around in the hot sun in the month of August and to suddenly see something that’s clearly reminiscent of fall.

Still, this probably won’t stop people from releasing more and more pumpkin spice flavored things. Let’s just hope they’ll live dog and cat food alone this time.

Image source: flickr

Study Associates Lack Of A Good Night’s Sleep With ADHD

person with adhd wide awake with hand on the cover

Recent research found an association between ADHD and disturbances in the circadian circles.

According to the latest research, there may be more than just a supposed connection between ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and disturbances in the circadian circle or the lack of a good night’s sleep.

Reportedly, some 75 percent of the children and adults dealing attention deficit also have sleeping problems. However, this is the first research to link the two issues and not treat them as separate problems.

ADHD Might be Caused by the Lack of Regular Circadian Sleep

Professor Sandra Kooji proposed this latest theory. She is the founder and chair of the European Network Adult ADHD and a VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam Professor of Psychiatry. The professor’s proposal was presented during the ECNP currently taking place in Paris, France.

Professor Kooji considers that this theory takes the association between sleep problems and the attention disorder to the “next logical step”. According to this, there might be an association between circadian problems and ADHD in the ‘majority of patients’.

The research team considers that the disturbances in the day and night rhythm might also lead to an alteration of the timing of several physical processes besides sleep. For example, this might be affecting the movement patterns, temperature, mealtimes, and more.

The professor also named sleeplessness and the deficit as being two sides of the same “physiological and mental coin”. During the presentation, she also laid out some of the links which led to this association.

They include the sleep disturbances and core body temperature changes, for examples. Or the oversensitivity to light or greater alertness in the evening of some patients, as others links.

Prof. Kooji continued by declaring that “We are working to confirm this physical-mental relationship by finding biomarkers, such as Vitamin D levels, blood glucose, cortisol levels, 24-hour blood pressure, heart rate variability, and so on.”

She considers that, if this gets confirmed, it might raise two further questions. Which one causes the other, sleeplessness – ADHD, or the other way around. More studied will be needed to confirm the association, and then to examine its implications and ramifications.

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Having Best Friends In High School Can Have Long Term Effects

girl best friends looking at one another

A new study suggests that having best friends in high school can help ensure a general well being in adulthood.

According to a recently published research, having best friends and a perhaps small but close group of friends during the high school years can be quite beneficial in the long term. In contrast, the same research suggests that being very popular during the same period can have a negative impact during adulthood.

Best Friends in High School Can Lead to Adulthood Well Being

University of Virginia researchers led by Joseph Allen are behind this new study. This was conducted with help from 169 individuals from socioeconomically and racially diverse backgrounds. At the start of the survey, which spanned over a decade, they were all 15 years old.

The study team checked in with the participants on an annual basis and assessed their mental health. They did so by surveying them on their friendships, and social acceptance. They also looked at their potential for anxiety or symptoms of depression.

The researchers also checked in with its participants’ peers and close friends, to assess their popularity and friendships.

Maintaining a degree of attachment and also intimate exchanges were defined as being high-quality friendships. Popularity was calculated based on the number of peers of the participants that stated that they would ‘hang out’ with them.

According to study data, those that had best friends as a 15 years old also presented a generally better state of well-being at the age of 25. These had fewer symptoms of depression, reported a lower social anxiety and also higher levels of self-worth.

In contrast, those with a higher popularity level were noted to have higher levels of anxiety a decade later.

“Our study affirms that forming strong close friendships is likely one of the most critical pieces of the teenage social experience,” stated Allen. He continued by stating that “”Being well-liked by a large group of people cannot take the place of forging deep, supportive friendships.”

The scientists noted that their study was quite small and did not factor in personal characteristics of the participants. However, the team considers that it helps underline the importance of forming and fostering relationships.

Study results are available in a paper in the journal Child Development.

Image Source: Pixabay 

Survey Analyzes The Public Perception On The Use Of Gene Editing

public perception on gene editing illustration

A new survey looked to determine the public perception of the use of CRISPR and gene editing.

In January, researchers part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison conducted a survey to learn about the public perception towards the use of gene editing. This is becoming increasingly relevant as gene editing technology is taking leaps and bounds. Scientists in Oregon announced in early August that they had successfully corrected a genetic defect in human embryos. A separate announcement this week revealed the birth of 37 pigs that have been genetically modified to provide organ transplants for humans. These feats of genetic engineering come after the development of CRISPR/Cas9, a gene editing tool derived from bacterial immune systems.

Public Perception Towards Gene Editing

Dietram Scheufele, the leader of the Wisconson-Madison study, told media sources that, “There’s probably much more optimism than pessimism about this technology overall.”

This new survey involved 1,600 participants. While three-quarters of the questioned people disapproved of using gene editing to make inheritable aesthetic changes, such as altering the eye color or height, the majority of participants (two-thirds) approved of using the technology to eliminate diseases.

Also, the researchers noted that people might appear more or less accepting of the use of gene editing depending on how the survey questions are presented. For example, there is a lower approval rating when the word “embryos” is used. CRISPR/Cas9 technology typically does involve editing organisms at the embryonic stage, a fact that many in the general public may not be aware of.

The ability to edit the genomes of individuals is no longer a figment of science fiction. While this technology has the potential to eliminate horrible genetic diseases, it comes with a set of challenging ethical questions. Scientists and lawmakers feel that it is important to understand the public perception regarding gene editing technology to make moral decisions about its use. No doubt the topic will generate much controversy and debate in the years to come.

The survey results were made available in a paper in the journal Science. 

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People With Psychopathic Traits Find It Easier To Lie

psychopathic traits lies

People with psychopathic traits seemingly find it easier to learn how to lie.

According to a new study, lying doesn’t come innately to people with psychopathic traits. Instead, they simply find it easier to lie after learning how to.

University of Hong Kong psychologists are behind this new research, which analyzed both the habit of lying and the ratio of rather psychopathic tendencies.

The study asked its participants to give a series of truthful or untruthful answers. They had to recognize, or not, the subjects in a collection of images. Readily established cues alerted them whether they should respond truthfully to each photograph.

All of the participants performed each of the tests twice. But in between testing, they were also taught how to lie more efficiently and believable.

The proxy for a participant’s ability to lie was their response time when issuing a false response, as prompted.

Psychopathic Traits Were Also Factored In

Before the study, the participants also underwent a series of personal tests. These showed that only those that presented psychopathic traits returned significant improvements in their ability to lie. After being taught how to lie better, their response time when giving false answers was significantly higher.

“The stark contrast between individuals with high and low levels of psychopathic traits in lying performance following two training sessions is remarkable, given that there were no significant differences in lying performance between the two groups prior to training,” stated Dr. Tatia Lee, a UHK cognitive scientist part of the study.

According to the research, people with psychopathic traits find it easier to lie after being trained how to. The team believes that the deceitfulness differences could be tied to brain processes and how they perceive untruthful data.

Lee stated that lying requires a series of specific processes in the brain. These include working memory, attention, conflict resolution, and inhibitory control. These seemed to be more reduced in people with high levels of psychopathic tendencies.

Those with low such traits found seemingly found it harder to suppress truthful data.

Study results can be accessed in the journal Translational Psychiatry.

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New Study Suggests People Find It Hard To Detect Fake Images

fake images of a tree

People are not as good at detecting fake images as initially believed.

A recently released study suggests that people actually find it quite hard to detect fake images, especially if these seem contextually appropriate.

Research results showed that people actually identified only about a third of the photos manipulated as part of the study. Their ability to spot the fakes was also quite influenceable, as the participants were more or less successful, depending on the picture’s context.

University of Warwick, UK, researchers led by Sophie Nightingale conducted this new study. Their study involved almost 700 participants between the ages of 13 to 70. These were asked to look at banks of images in which no picture repeated itself. This, in turn, made it harder to detect if the photos had been altered or not.

Human Capacity of Spotting Fake Images Still Not Fully Understood

The images utilized were real-life situations and depicted everyday scenes. Among the picture banks, half of the photos were real, and the remaining ones had been altered. Nonetheless, these digital modifications were subtle changes.

Namely, the research team airbrushed faces, for example. Or they added or subtracted items. Still, they also made some implausible changes such as incorrectly placed shadows or weird angles.

As the participants were shown banks of 10 images, chance performance for this task was 50 percent. In comparison, the people did not do such a splendid job, as they were only able to correctly identify 65 percent of the fake images. They also accurately identified just 58 percent of the original photos.

When asked to explain why they had made such a choice, the participants were even less successful. However, additional tests had people identify possibly altered areas of an image. The participants fared better in this task, as they correctly spotted 56 percent of the manipulations.

This also seems to suggest that, given time and by catching a hint of something being wrong, people might be able to spot fakes even if the alterations are subtle or barely visible.

“So the challenge now is to try and find ways to help people improve at this task. For instance, fake images often contain tell-tale signs that they have been manipulated,” states Nightingale.

Now, the team is conducting a new research in the same area. They are trying to determine if, given these signs, people can become better at detecting manipulated or fake imagery.

Current study results are available in the journal Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications.

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