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Friday Roundup – The Latest in Mental Health News
(and other stuff)
Losing Weight Using Your Mind
Weight loss is a holy grail that millions try to search for every day. Reality shows, pills, diet programs, P-one million-X, etc.: the list goes on and on with gimmicks and quick fixes to help people lost weight. Time.com reports on new research that can add one more method to people’s bags of tricks for losing weight.
Eric Robinson, psychologist and scientist at the University of Liverpool, believes that psychological factors play as much of a role in hunger (and more importantly, controlling hunger) as do physiological factors. Robinson suggests that the act of just remembering the last thing you have eaten may trigger activity in the brain that simulates being full.
Robinson conducted a study in which he focused on individuals with anterograde amnesia (inability to retain new information), finding that participants were able to retain sensory memory of the food they eat, despite having no conscious memory of it. In research with individuals with no memory issues, Robinson found that people who were made to meditate on the food they had consumed were less likely to feel like they needed to eat more.
Power of Voices
CBS News reports on a new study that highlights the healing power of voices, particularly with unconscious patients. For loved ones of patients with traumatic brain injuries or who are in a coma or have medical complexities that lead to unconsciousness, doctors advise to talk to the patients. The question that often comes up is “can they hear me?”
Theresa Pape, neuroscientist and lead author of a study out of Northwestern Medicine and Hines VA Hospital, set out to find the answer.
15 coma patients received constant brain scans during the course of the study. Pape and her research team found that when patients heard the voices of unfamiliar people, brain activity remained static overall. When patients heard the voices of loved ones, brain activity increased dramatically. One group of patients continuously heard recordings by loved ones of familiar stories through headphones while the other group of patients only heard silence. The group listening to voices of loved ones recovered significantly quicker than the group who heard silence.
According to Pape,
“A very severely injured brain can be worked with and can be rehabilitated. Just like doing jumping jacks over and over again, we think we’re exercising those connections in the brain and we think that’s helping us see the recovery of awareness.”
If you have children, you know about Frozen. If you have friends or siblings with children, you know about Frozen. If you don’t have children, you know about Frozen. If you haven’t watched Frozen, you know about Frozen. If you’ve lived under a rock for the past two years, you might not know about Frozen, but you probably know about Frozen. The animated Disney movie, featuring two sisters who eventually reunite, was released at the end of November in 2013, yet the appeal is as strong as ever, more than a year later. CNN set out to understand what it is about Frozen that has resonated so deeply with children by interviewing two psychologists who are sisters themselves. Regional director for Common Sense Media, Yalda Uhls, and associate professor of clinical psychology at University of California, Santa Barbara, Maryam Kia-Keating. The psychologists sat down with CNN to answer questions about what makes Frozen princesses so powerful. Below is an excerpt.
CNN: Princess movies have been around since the beginning of time, but this has really resonated. What has made this one so unique?
Yalda Uhls: One of the things that really struck me, and I think struck little children, is that there is a really strong intergenerational, family-themed message here. Despite the sisters Anna and Elsa being separated for so long, the story is ultimately about the bond between the two of them. When you’re little, that is your zone; that’s your group; they define your world.
Maryam Kia-Keating: Ultimately, it’s about the love between the sisters. That’s a message that many little children understand. There are also good lessons about overcoming struggles and facing life challenges. But, what’s interesting about preschoolers, in particular, is there’s this loyalty and unrelenting interest to watch this movie over and over again. My 4-year-old daughter told me that she also liked that it didn’t have a witch. I wouldn’t have thought that until she said it, but it made me more thoughtful about all the other movies — great movies — that have scary witches and themes in them.
CNN: The song “Let It Go”: It’s everywhere, and kids can’t stop singing it. What is it about this anthem?
Kia-Keating: My 4-year-old came home and learned the song before we had even seen the movie. One of the lines she and all her friends connected to was “Be the good girl that you always have to be.” And when they sing it, they wag their fingers like they do in the movie. I think it looks a lot like something they see and hear from parents — be a good girl or boy, don’t do this or that — so part of it is copying what they frequently hear. But when I asked my daughter what she thought the song was about, she said it was about “Elsa being happy and free, and nobody bothering her.”
That’s a message that everyone wants: to be happy and free.
Mutation of Autism Genes
Today reports on a new genetic study, the findings of which lend support to a growing body of evidence that suggests autism may just be “genetic bad luck.”
The study, conducted by Dr. Stephen Scherer and colleagues from The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, was recently published in Nature Medicine. The research team studied the DNA of 170 individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Scherer and his team found that close to 70% of siblings with autism had different mutations of DNA underlying their disorders.
According to Scherer, “”It’s random mutation in these families. It just happens to be lightning striking twice.”
Researchers also analyzed autism running in families and the role hereditary factors play in developing the disorder. They analyzed 85 families in which more than one child was diagnosed with ASD. Every participant’s entire genome was sequenced. Scherer and colleagues found that siblings shared less than 30% of autism-associated mutations. Each child had a unique set of genetic mutations underlying symptoms.
Scherer’s findings also supported existing research that finds older males have a higher risk of having children with autism. According to the research, over 75% of new mutations come from their fathers, likely due to sperm being more prone to mutation later in life.
This week’s roundup is dedicated to Super Bowl XLIX . Because YAY!!!