Resilience counteracts effects of childhood abuse and neglect on health

Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine have determined that psychological resilience has a positive effect on health outcomes for people living with schizophrenia. This is the first study to quantitatively assess the effects of both childhood trauma and psychological resilience on health and metabolic function in people living with schizophrenia.

Globally 1 percent of people suffer from schizophrenia, a chronic and severe mental disorder that can affect all types of people and greatly impacts how a person thinks, feels and behaves. The psychiatric symptoms are typically treated with antipsychotic drugs; however, persons with schizophrenia are also more vulnerable to physical disorders, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease and premature death. Although the cause of schizophrenia is not entirely known, the disorder is linked to genetic and environmental risk factors, including childhood adversity.

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Mother’s depression might do the same to her child’s IQ

Roughly one in 10 women in the United States will experience depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The consequences, however, may extend to their children, report researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, who found that a mother’s depression can negatively affect a child’s cognitive development up to the age of 16.

The findings are published in the April issue of Child Development.

Researchers surveyed approximately 900 healthy children and their mothers living in Santiago, Chile at five-year intervals from the child’s infancy through age 16. They observed how affectionate and responsive mothers were to their children at each age period, as well as how much mothers provided age-appropriate learning materials. Children were assessed on verbal cognitive abilities using standardized IQ tests during each assessment. Mothers were tested for symptoms of depression.

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Raw fruit and vegetables provide better mental health outcomes

That is the simple message from University of Otago researchers who have discovered raw fruit and vegetables may be better for your mental health than cooked, canned and processed fruit and vegetables.

Dr Tamlin Conner, Psychology Senior Lecturer and lead author, says public health campaigns have historically focused on aspects of quantity for the consumption of fruit and vegetables (such as 5+ a day).

However, the study, just published in Frontiers in Psychology, found that for mental health in particular, it may also be important to consider the way in which produce was prepared and consumed.

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The memory part of the brain may also hold clues for anxiety and depression

The hippocampus is an area of the brain commonly linked with memory and dementia.

But new U of T Scarborough research finds that it may also yield important clues about a range of mental health illnesses including addiction, anxiety and depression.

The research, authored by a team of neuroscientists, found that a specific part of the hippocampus could play an important role in emotional regulation, a finding that calls into question our understanding of how exactly this part of the brain works.

“What this shows is that we may need to rethink how the hippocampus processes information,” says Rutsuko Ito, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology.

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Humans and others exposed to prenatal stress have high stress levels after birth

Vertebrate species, including humans, exposed to stress prenatally tend to have higher stress hormones after birth, according to a new Dartmouth-led study published in Scientific Reports. While previous research has reported examples of maternal stress experience predicting offspring stress hormones in different species, this study is the first to empirically demonstrate the impact of prenatal stress on offspring stress hormone levels using data from all known studies across vertebrates.

Through a meta-analysis of 114 results from a total of 39 observational and experimental studies across 14 vertebrate species, including birds, snakes, sheep and humans, the study examines the impact of prenatal exposure to maternal stress on offspring. The researchers analyzed the role of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA)-axis, the stress physiological system that is shared across all vertebrates, which ultimately, results in the production of stress hormones known as “glucocorticoids.” The HPA-axis is the hormonal system responsible for mobilizing an animal’s stress response. Offspring exposed prenatally to maternal stress were found to have more stress hormone levels (glucocorticoids) after birth. This could reflect a biological adaptation with an evolutionary history, as more stress hormones could increase an animal’s chances for survival in a stressful environment.

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Lingering negative responses to stress linked with health a decade later

People whose negative emotional responses to stress carry over to the following day are more likely to report health problems and physical limitations later in life compared with peers who are able to “let it go,” according to findings published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“Our research shows that negative emotions that linger after even minor, daily stressors have important implications for our long-term physical health,” says psychological scientist Kate Leger of the University of California, Irvine.

“When most people think of the types of stressors that impact health, they think of the big things, major life events that severely impact their lives, such as the death of a loved one or getting divorced,” Leger says. “But accumulating findings suggest that it’s not just the big events, but minor, everyday stressors that can impact our health as well.”

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Depression negatively impacts heart and stroke patients

Depression, even when undiagnosed, can have many negative effects on cardiovascular patients, including poor healthcare experiences, more use of healthcare resources and higher health costs, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions 2018, a premier global exchange of the latest advances in quality of care and outcomes research in cardiovascular disease and stroke for researchers, healthcare professionals and policymakers.

About one-fifth of cardiovascular disease patients suffer from depression.

“While we don’t know which comes first — depression or cardiovascular disease — the consensus is that depression is a risk marker for cardiovascular disease, meaning if you have cardiovascular disease, there is a higher likelihood that you could also have depression, when compared with the risk in the general population,” said Victor Okunrintemi, M.D., M.P.H., a research fellow at Baptist Health South Florida in Coral Gables, Florida, and lead author of a pair of studies that looked into different aspects of depression and cardiovascular disease.

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Attention deficit disorders could stem from impaired brain coordination

Researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and colleagues have discovered how two brain regions work together to maintain attention, and how discordance between the regions could lead to attention deficit disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression.

People with attention deficits have difficulty focusing and often display compulsive behavior. The new study suggests these symptoms could be due to dysfunction in a gene — ErbB4 — that helps different brain regions communicate. The gene is a known risk factor for psychiatric disorders, and is required to maintain healthy neurotransmitter levels in the brain.

In a study published in the current issue of Neuron, researchers showed mice lacking ErbB4 activity in specific brain regions performed poorly on timed attention tasks. The mice struggled to pay attention and remember visual cues associated with food. Neuroscientists describe the kind of thought-driven attention required for the tasks as “top-down attention.” Top-down attention is goal-oriented, and related to focus. People who lack efficient top-down attention are at a higher risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The study is the first to connect ErbB4 to top-down attention.

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Self-rating mental health as ‘good’ predicts positive future mental health

Researchers have found that when a person rates their current mental health as ‘positive’ despite meeting criteria for a mental health problem such as depression, it can predict good mental health in the future, even without treatment.

Using data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, Sirry Alang of Lehigh University and her co-authors, Donna D. McAlpine of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and Ellen McCreedy of Brown University, sampled people who met the criteria for having a mental health problem and examined differences between those who do and do not rate their own mental health as poor.

After examining whether self -rated mental health predicts later outcomes among persons with a mental health problem, they estimated the impact of self-rated mental health on later mental health for persons with a mental health problem who did not receive treatment.

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Using chosen names reduces odds of depression and suicide in transgender youths

In one of the largest and most diverse studies of transgender youths to date, researchers led by a team at The University of Texas at Austin have found that when transgender youths are allowed to use their chosen name in places such as work, school and at home, their risk of depression and suicide drops.

“Many kids who are transgender have chosen a name that is different than the one that they were given at birth,” said author Stephen T. Russell, professor and chair of human development and family science. “We showed that the more contexts or settings where they were able to use their preferred name, the stronger their mental health was.”

The study in the Journal of Adolescent Health was published this week in advance of Saturday’s annual Transgender Day of Visibility.

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