Friday Roundup – This is Your Kid’s Brain on Math, Inflaming Depression, Momsongs, and Much More!


Attention lovely readers! We at Healthshire will be providing you with a weekly Friday roundup of the latest in mental health news. Let us do all the work and be your one-stop-shop for all things current!

Friday Roundup – The Latest in Mental Health News

(and other stuff)

Math Can Change Adolescent Brains

Fox News reports on research out of Stanford University that aims to analyze how adolescent brains react to learning math. Researchers analyzed the brains of 28 children as they solved simple math problems inside a MRI brain-scanning machine. Length of response time, along with which regions of the brain are activated, were analyzed. Participants were tested twice, almost a year apart.

Findings show that as children get older, answers were recalled more from memory, were recalled more quickly and accurately, and this was reflected in the brain. Less activity was observed in the prefrontal and parietal regions associated with counting while more activity was observed in the hippocampus, the brain’s memory center.

The research team, led by senior author Vinod Menon, M.D., professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, also compared the brain activity of 20 adolescents with 20 adults doing the same simple math problems in the MRI machine. Menon and his colleagues found that adults retrieve the answers from the hippocampus differently than do adolescents. Adults have almost automatic retrieval. Over time, the brain becomes increasingly more efficient at simple fact retrieval, freeing up memory space to process newer and more complex information.

As reported by Fox News, NIH’s Mann Koepke comments on the study’s findings:

“The study provides new evidence that this experience with math actually changes the hippocampal patterns, or the connections. They become more stable with skill development. So learning your addition and multiplication tables and having them in rote memory helps.”

Koepke advises quizzing children in different orders (eight times four and then five times eight) to ensure they really remember and don’t have to expend extra energy thinking it through.

Possible Link Between Inflammation and Depression

TIME magazine reports on research, recently published in JAMA Psychiatry, revolving around an alternative explanation for complex conditions such as depression. Researchers from the University of Cambridge are studying what role inflammatory markers – proteins released into the blood when fighting off infections – play in the development of mental health conditions.

Scientists theorize similar mechanisms are involved in many chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart and skin diseases, and mental illnesses.

Heart disease and diabetes, which are common comorbidities for psychosis and depression, are linked to the inflammatory markers interleukin 6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP).

The study finds that increased levels of IL-6 in childhood are associated with a higher risk of developing depression and psychosis in young adulthood. The authors conclude that inflammatory pathways may provide significant insight into prevention and intervention for these kinds of conditions.

Statewide Job Loss May Increase Suicidality in Teens

Previous research has shown a link between unemployment and suicide-related behavior in adults. A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health highlights an association between mass job layoffs and the triggering of suicidal behavior in teens as well.

Researchers from the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University analyzed data from 1997 to 2009 from the  Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to estimate how mass job layoffs in a state affected teenagers, with an average age of 16.

The report found that when 1% of a state’s working-age population (people ages 25-64) were laid off, all suicidal behavior accounted for by the study rose by 2 percent in girls. Boys remained unaffected. Observations about ethnicity and race found that when 1% of the population lost their jobs, a 2%-3% increase in suicidal behavior increased in African-American teenagers. White and Hispanic teenagers did not seem to be affected. In publishing the report, the authors hope to better identify increased suicide risk in teenagers.

Rates of Childhood Disability Increase

According to a new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, the prevalence of disability in children increased from 2001 to 2011. In that decade, the overall rate of disability in children and adolescents younger than 18 rose from almost 6.9% to almost 8%, an increase of 15%. The numbers are based on data from based on parent-reported data from the National Health Information Survey.

Researchers note that the increase over the decade is not because of physical health ailments (which decreased by 12%), but rather attributed to neurodevelopmental or mental health conditions (which increased by 20%).

Benefits of Maternal Singing for Preemies and Maternal Anxiety

According to the CDC, almost 500,000 babies are born prematurely every year in the U.S. Because of their partially developed organs and nervous systems at birth, premature babies are vulnerable to various health problems.

Reuters Health reports on a new study that finds that premature babies benefit from the combination of maternal singing while being held close to their skin. The process also helps with alleviating maternal anxiety.

The study, conducted by lead author Shmuel Arnon, a physician at the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, Israel, evaluated almost 90 pairs of mothers and their premature infants between fall of 2011 and spring of 2012.

The researchers found that when the mothers sang to their preterm babies while holding their offspring in a “kangaroo care” position (skin-on-skin), the babies’ heart rate improved versus being held without the singing. Anxiety levels of the mothers dropped significantly as well.

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 the promotion of peace and the elimination of hate.


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