Friday Roundup – Liberal vs. Conservative Brains, Potential Dangers of Shift Work, Silence & Solitude, and Much More!!


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Friday Roundup – The Latest in Mental Health News

(and other stuff)

Liberal and Conservative Brains May Differ

Voting season tends to ignite political discussions. These types of conversations commonly end without resolution. Debating over party lines seems to only entrench people further behind their party platform.

The Washington Post reports on a recent study that finds the brains of Conservatives and Liberals may actually be wired differently. The study, published in Current Biology, was conducted by researchers at Virginia Tech. The research team tested over 80 participants to identify their political ideology. Individuals were then places in an fMRI machine and shown 80 threatening, disgusting, pleasant or neutral images and their brain reactions were analyzed. Afterward, they were asked to rate images.

Researchers found that conservative brains reacted more intensely to disgusting images than did liberals. Other images invoked significantly different responses between the brains of conservatives and liberals.

Study authors note: “People tend to think that their political views are purely cognitive (i.e., rational). However, our results further support the notion that emotional processes are tightly coupled to complex and high-dimensional human belief systems, and such emotional processes might play a much larger role than we currently believe, possibly outside our awareness of its influence.”

Higher Hospital Readmission Rates with Psychiatric Comorbidity

A study recently published in Psychiatric Services in Advance finds that individuals with co-occurring mental health disorders are more likely to be readmitted to the hospital after discharge than individuals with no mental illnesses.

Researchers from the Center for Health Policy and Health Services Research at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit analyzed just over 160,000 patients served by 11 U.S. Health Systems. They found that individuals dealing with heart failure (HF), acute myocardial infarction (AMI), and pneumonia had higher hospital readmission rates when accompanied by psychiatric illnesses.

Over the course of two years (2009-2011), almost 22% of patients with comorbid psychiatric illnesses went were readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge. Only 15.5% of patients without comorbid mental health issues were readmitted in the same time period.

Researchers concluded, “Individuals with comorbid anxiety, dementia, and depression had higher rates of readmission than persons with no psychiatric comorbidity regardless of whether the index hospitalization was for HF, AMI, or pneumonia. [H]ealth systems should consider adding elements of mental health assessment, diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment to interventions to prevent 30-day all-cause hospital readmissions.”

Shift Work May Negatively Impact the Brain

BBC News reports on a study that suggest shift work, particularly “antisocial” shifts, can prematurely age the brain and decrease intellectual ability. The study, recently published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine and conducted by a research team from the University of Swansea and the University of Toulouse, analyzed over 3,000 people in France.

Participants performed a battery of tests analyzing memory, speed of thought processing, and wider cognitive abilities.

Although the brain naturally declines with age, researchers nots an accelerated pace of decline in people who worked shifts, particularly during hours in the middle of the night.

Researchers found that people with more than 10 years of shift work experience had similar test results as individuals who were almost seven years older. The study also notes that brains usually recover if people quit shift works, but that the process takes at least five years to “return to normal.”

Dr. Philip Tucker, a member of the research team, tells BBC: “It was quite a substantial decline in brain function, it is likely that when people trying to undertake complex cognitive tasks then they might make more mistakes and slip-ups, maybe one in 100 makes a mistake with a very large consequence, but it’s hard to say how big a difference it would make in day-to-day life. There are ways to mitigate the effects in the way you design work schedules and regular medical check-ups… should include cognitive performance tests to look for danger signs.”

Mothers May Talk More to Daughters than Sons During Infancy

Baby talk is one way primary caregivers bond with their newborns and infants. Studies show mothers tend to talk more to babies than do fathers. NBC News reports on a study that finds a baby’s gender may play a role in the way mothers speak to their infants.

The study, recently published in Pediatrics, finds that mothers tend to talk more to their infant daughters than infant sons during the first few weeks and months of life.

Researchers analyzed 3,000 hours of recordings of language interactions between late preterm and term infants and their parents.

Study results reflect that mothers interacted vocally more with infant daughters both at birth and 44 weeks post-menstrual age (equivalent to 1 month old). Researchers also noted that male adults interacted more frequently with infant boys, but the difference did not qualify for statistical significance.

Silence and Solitude

The Huffington Post reports on the importance of finding time for ourselves amidst the chaotic pace of our electronic device-riddled lives.

The article highlights ten benefits of setting aside time to sit in silence and be at peace with yourself and your surroundings.

Silence and solitude can help you:

1. Avoid Burnout

2. Increase Sensitivity

3. Dismiss Future Issues

4. Improve Memory

5. Strengthen Purpose and Action

6. Increase Insight and Self-Awareness

7. Grow Your Brain

8. Experience Epiphanies

9. Master Discomfort

10. Emotional Processing and Cleansing

Telling Our Stories

It’s important to share your journey with others. In an effort to bring mental illness out of the shadows and reduce stigma, we are especially interested in hearing about you and your stories related to mental health. Be sure to visit Healthshire’s “Telling Our Stories” section. Spend some time reading the stories or submit your own!

This week’s roundup is dedicated to all the cute little turkeys that will sacrifice their lives for our appetites this holiday season. Thanks, guys!


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