Mental health crises seeing more kids forced to ED for help; experts call for greater investment

A dramatic increase in the number of children going to the emergency department in mental health crises is evidence “the system is failing”, according to a group of leading adolescent and mental health experts.

In Victoria, there was a 46 per cent increase in the number of children presenting to the ED for self-harm, stress and anxiety, mood, behavioural and emotional disorders between 2008 and 2015, according to a recent study.

Similarly, in New South Wales, ED presentations among 10-19 year-olds for suicidal thoughts, self-harm and intentional poisoning increased by 27 per cent between 2010 and 2014, another paper has shown.

Full story at ABC.net

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.

Full story at Science Daily

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.”

Full story at Science Daily

Networks of brain activity predict vulnerability to depression

Tapping into the electrical chatter between different regions of the brain may provide a new way to predict and prevent depression, according to new research by Duke University neuroscientists and electrical engineers.

The researchers found different networks of electrical brain activity in mice that were more susceptible to developing depression-like symptoms following stressful events than in more resilient mice.

If replicated in humans, these results could be the first step toward a test to predict a person’s vulnerabilty to developing mental illnesses like depression.

Full story at Science Daily

Increased stress on fathers leads to brain development changes in offspring

New research in mice has found that a father’s stress affects the brain development of his offspring. This stress changes the father’s sperm, which can then alter the brain development of the child. This new research provides a much better understanding of the key role that fathers play in the brain development of offspring.

Scientists have known that a mother’s environment during pregnancy, including factors such as poor diet, stress or infection, can cause damage negatively impact her offspring. This may be due in part to how this environment affects the expression of certain genes — known as epigenetics.

But the researchers, led by neuroscientist Tracy Bale at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, now show that a father’s stress can also affect offspring development, by altering important aspects of his sperm.

Full story at Science Daily

Here’s how stress may be making you sick

A Michigan State University researcher is providing new insight into how certain types of stress interact with immune cells and can regulate how these cells respond to allergens, ultimately causing physical symptoms and disease.

The federally funded study, published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, showed how a stress receptor, known as corticotropin-releasing factor, or CRF1, can send signals to certain immune cells, called mast cells, and control how they defend the body.

During the study, Moeser compared the histamine responses of mice to two types of stress conditions — psychological and allergic — where the immune system becomes overworked. One group of mice was considered “normal” with CRF1 receptors on their mast cells and the other group had cells that lacked CRF1.

Full story at Science Daily

Stressed out? Try smelling your partner’s shirt

The scent of a romantic partner can help lower stress levels, new psychology research from the University of British Columbia has found.

The study, published yesterday in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found women feel calmer after being exposed to their male partner’s scent. Conversely, being exposed to a stranger’s scent had the opposite effect and raised levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.

“Many people wear their partner’s shirt or sleep on their partner’s side of the bed when their partner is away, but may not realize why they engage in these behaviours,” said Marlise Hofer, the study’s lead author and a graduate student in the UBC department of psychology. “Our findings suggest that a partner’s scent alone, even without their physical presence, can be a powerful tool to help reduce stress.”

Full story at Science Daily

Early childhood adversities linked to health problems in tweens, teens

Adverse experiences in childhood — such as the death of a parent, growing up in poverty, physical or sexual abuse, or having a parent with a psychiatric illness — have been associated with physical and mental health problems later in life. But new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has shown that multiple adverse experiences in early childhood are linked to depression and physical health problems in kids as young as 9 to 15. Further, the researchers have identified a potential pathway in the brain to explain how such stressful experiences influence poor health in kids.

The researchers found that a key brain structure involved in regulating emotions and decision-making is smaller in kids who have lived through three or more adverse experiences before the age of 8, compared with kids whose lives were more stable. Young children who faced multiple adverse experiences also were 15 percent more likely to develop severe depression by their preteen and early teen years and 25 percent more likely to have physical health problems, such as asthma and gastrointestinal disorders. Due to the health problems, these kids were more likely to miss school.

Full story at EurekaAlrt

Hormone replacement therapy may be beneficial for women’s memory

A type of hormone replacement therapy may protect memory for some women, according to a new USC-led study.

The findings by USC researchers are the latest to indicate that hormone replacement therapy may have some benefits, deepening scientific discussions about the pros and cons of the menopausal treatment.

“Our study suggests that estrogen treatment after menopause protects the memory that is needed for short-term cognitive tasks from the effects of stress,” said Alexandra Ycaza Herrera, the study’s lead author and a researcher at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology.

Full story at Science Daily

Mindfulness meditation app works — but acceptance training component is crucial

For the millions of mindfulness meditation mobile app users, there is good news: New research shows that they can reduce the body’s response to biological stress.

A Carnegie Mellon University-led study found that one component of mindfulness interventions is particularly important for impacting stress biology. Acceptance, or learning how to be open and accepting of the way things are in each moment, is critical for the training’s stress reduction effects. Published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, the researchers offer the first scientific evidence that a brief mindfulness meditation mobile app that incorporates acceptance training reduces cortisol and systolic blood pressure in response to stress.

“We have known that mindfulness training programs can buffer stress, but we haven’t figured out how they work,” said David Creswell, associate professor of psychology in CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “This study, led by Emily Lindsay in my lab, provides initial evidence that the acceptance training component is critical for driving the stress reduction benefits of mindfulness training programs.”

Full story at Science Daily