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  • October 1, 2014
  • 09:00 AM
  • 18 views

What Is Love, Anyway?

by Bill Sullivan in The 'Scope

Inspired by the recent discovery of a couple still holding hands after 700 years, this article ponders the question, "What Is Love, Anyway?"... Read more »

Love TM. (2014) Oxytocin, motivation and the role of dopamine. Pharmacology, biochemistry, and behavior, 49-60. PMID: 23850525  

Domingue, B., Fletcher, J., Conley, D., & Boardman, J. (2014) Genetic and educational assortative mating among US adults. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(22), 7996-8000. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1321426111  

  • October 1, 2014
  • 07:02 AM
  • 5 views

Admissibility of brain scans in criminal trials

by Rita Handrich in The Jury Room

It’s been a while since we’ve done an update on neurolaw issues and we think you’ll want to read the entire article upon which this post is based. The article is published in Court Review: Journal of the American Judges Association (which is probably a journal you would benefit from perusing regularly). The article (authored […]

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... Read more »

Rushing, SE. (2014) The admissibility of brain scans in criminal trials: The case of positron emission tomography. . Court Review, 50(2). info:/

  • October 1, 2014
  • 05:31 AM
  • 21 views

It’s ‘Stoptober’ – but 28 days isn’t long enough to change a habit

by Stuart Farrimond in Dr Stu's Science Blog

A month feels a very long time when you’re trying to give something up. Crikey, if you’re trying to give up cigarettes then even a weekend seems an eternity. And now that October is upon us, scores of smokers are going cold turkey on the fags for a 28 day stint. It’s all part of … Continue reading →... Read more »

Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C., Potts, H., & Wardle, J. (2010) How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(6), 998-1009. DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.674  

  • October 1, 2014
  • 05:11 AM
  • 17 views

Maternal complement C1q and offspring psychosis

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"In conclusion, exposure to maternal C1q activity during pregnancy may be a risk factor for the development of schizophrenia and psychosis in offspring". That was the primary observation made by Emily Severance and colleagues [1] at Johns Hopkins, extending their scientific interest in immune system involvement being potentially linked to psychiatry [2]."Serve the public trust, protect the innocent, uphold the law"I've already talked about Dr Severance's previous research forays into complement factor C1q and psychiatry on this blog (see here) and how C1q seropositivity was pretty significantly associated with both recent and non-recent onset schizophrenia in their cohort. Said complexing of C1q also turning up food components (gluten and casein) as potentially being involved [3] which has rumbles of Dohan's hypothesis [4] mixed in.The most recent Severance paper takes things another stage further by trying to "determine if maternal C1q was associated with offspring schizophrenia and psychosis". Archived serum samples provided during pregnancy were therefore analysed for 55 "matched case-control" pairs of mothers - mothers with offspring who went on to develop psychoses as adults and those with offspring who were asymptomatic from such psychiatric issues. "IgG markers of C1q, bovine milk casein, egg ovalbumin, and wheat gluten were measured". Authors reported that: "C1q was significantly elevated in case mothers" and in that case group, where offspring developed psychoses: "C1q was significantly correlated with antibodies to both food and infectious antigens: gluten..., herpes simplex virus type 2..., and adenovirus".Accepting that the total number of participants included in this latest trial was relatively small, also relying on archived samples collected as part of the US Collaborative Perinatal Project (CPP) [5], these are interesting results. That both food and infectious agent antigens seemed to correlate with C1q adds to other interesting work by Dr Severance and colleagues on, for example, the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii potentially joining forces with food antigens (see here) in some fashion. I don't know enough about the processes potentially involved in any relationship to provide any definitive answers as to the hows and whys but one hazards a guess that something like an effect on gastrointestinal barrier function might play some role [6]. This and other research from people such as the late Paul Patterson [7] continue to drive home the notion that maternal infection, or rather the immune processes and consequence of infection during pregnancy, seem to be able to influence later life outcomes for offspring. We still need to know more about the specific biological processes involved in any relationship including the rising scientific star that is epigenetics [8] (something covered in a recent blog post) and also how subsequent life events (whether biological, social or psychological) contribute to any psychiatric diagnosis. Whether for certain people or groups of people, there may be some merit at looking further at gastrointestinal (GI) functions (see here) or even dietary changes (see here) is perhaps something else worth investing a little more research time and effort into too...Ben Folds Five to close...----------[1] Severance EG. et al. Maternal complement C1q and increased odds for psychosis in adult offspring. Schizophrenia Res. 2014. 4 September.[2] Severance EG. et al. Autoimmune diseases, gastrointestinal disorders and the microbiome in schizophrenia: more than a gut feeling. Schizophr Res. 2014 Jul 14. pii: S0920-9964(14)00319-3.[3] Severance EG. et al. Complement C1q formation of immune complexes with milk caseins and wheat glutens in schizophrenia. Neurobiol Dis. 2012 Dec;48(3):447-53.[4] Dohan FC. Genetic hypothesis of idiopathic schizophrenia: its exorphin connection. Schizophr Bull. 1988;14(4):489-94.[5] Klebanoff MA. The Collaborative Perinatal Project: a 50-year retrospective. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 2009 Jan;23(1):2-8.[6] Nouri M. et al. Intestinal barrier dysfunction develops at the onset of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, and can be induced by adoptive transfer of auto-reactive T cells. PLoS One. 2014 Sep 3;9(9):e106335.[7] Brown AS. & Patterson PH. Maternal infection and schizophrenia: implications for prevention. Schizophr Bull. 2011 Mar;37(2):284-90.[8] Tang B. et al. Epigenetic changes at gene promoters in response to immune activation in utero. Brain Behav Immun. 2013 May;30:168-75.----------Emily G. Severance, Kristin L. Gressitt, Stephen L. Buka, Tyrone D. Cannon, & Robert H. Yolken (2014). Maternal complement C1q and increased odds for psychosis in adult offspring Schizophrenia Research : 10.1016/j.schres.2014.07.053... Read more »

Emily G. Severance, Kristin L. Gressitt, Stephen L. Buka, Tyrone D. Cannon, & Robert H. Yolken. (2014) Maternal complement C1q and increased odds for psychosis in adult offspring. Schizophrenia Research. info:/10.1016/j.schres.2014.07.053

  • September 30, 2014
  • 05:06 AM
  • 48 views

Autoimmune thyroiditis and depressive disorder

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Our study demonstrates a strong association between anti-TPO levels, which are considered to be of diagnostic value for autoimmune thyroiditis... with uni- or bipolar depression.""Beware the bad cat bearing a grudge"So said the study published by Detlef Degner and colleagues [1]. Anti-TPO antibodies by the way, refers to anti-thyroid peroxidase antibodies which, as the name suggests, are antibodies against thyroid peroxidase, an important step in the production of thyroid hormones. Said thyroid hormones have some pretty far-reaching effects on our physiology. Anti-TPO antibodies are also diagnostic for autoimmune related conditions affecting the thyroid such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis.The Degner paper looked at a small group of participants diagnosed with depression (n=52) and analysed various thyroid related measures compared with a smaller control group made up of 19 participants diagnosed with schizophrenia. Authors reported a "pathologically increased" frequency of anti-TPO antibodies in those with depression compared with those with schizophrenia (32% vs 5% respectively). With something of a rather large confidence interval (CI) and hence the need for quite a bit more investigation, they also reported "the odds ratio of uni- or bipolar patients with depression for an autoimmune thyroiditis was ten times higher...  when compared with schizophrenia patients".Reiterating again the quite small participant numbers, one needs to be rather careful with this particular study before too many firm conclusions are reached. Added to the fact that there was no asymptomatic control group included for study, I'd like to see quite a bit more done in this area before pinning my colours to any particular mast. That being said, this is certainly not the first time that (a) thyroid function has been correlated with depressive symptoms or depressive disorder [2] and/or (b) elevated levels of anti-TPO antibodies have been linked to depression [3] also crossing different geographies [4]. The paper by Carta and colleagues [5] (open-access) further extends the anti-TPO antibody link to "mood and anxiety disorders". This, complete with some discussion about how a "sub-clinical dysfunction of axis Thyrotropin Releasing Hormone (TRH) – Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) with consequent alteration of circadian rhythms of TSH" might be involved, linking an "aberrancy in the immuno-endocrine system" as a bridge between autoimmunity and psychiatry.Autoimmune conditions have been previously discussed on this blog as potentially being a risk factor for mood disorder (see here). Under this banner, I'm minded to bring in another paper by Carta and colleagues [6] discussing how "Anti-TPO prevalence was significantly higher in celiac patients than in the control group" and further: "A higher frequency of PD [panic disorder] and MDD [major depressive disorder] was found in celiac patients with positive anti-TPO when compared to negative anti-TPO patients". This assumes that there may be some elevated risk of autoimmune issues impacting on the thyroid extending into other autoimmune conditions such as celiac (coeliac) disease as per other work. I could start going on about how this research might impact on other peripheral work e.g gluten exposure and feelings of depression but don't want to get too speculative at this point on any correlation with something like gluten or gut permeability.Suffice to say that outside of just looking at thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels, the Degner results and other research suggest a whole other ballgame of autoimmune involvement affecting thyroid function and potentially impacting on psychiatry...Music to close: I Will Wait by Mumford and Sons.----------[1] Degner D. et al. Association between autoimmune thyroiditis and depressive disorder in psychiatric outpatients. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2014 Sep 6.[2] Demartini B. et al. Depressive Symptoms and Major Depressive Disorder in Patients Affected by Subclinical Hypothyroidism: A Cross-sectional Study. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2014 Aug;202(8):603-7.[3] Pop VJ. et al. Are autoimmune thyroid dysfunction and depression related? J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1998 Sep;83(9):3194-7.[4] Muñoz-Cruzado Poce MJ. et al. Prevalence of thyroid disorders in patients diagnosed with depression. Aten Primaria. 2000 Jul-Aug;26(3):176-9.[5] Carta MG. et al. The link between thyroid autoimmunity (antithyroid peroxidase autoantibodies) with anxiety and mood disorders in the community: a field of interest for public health in the future. BMC Psychiatry. 2004 Aug 18;4:25.[6] Carta MG. et al. Association between panic disorder, major depressive disorder and celiac disease: a possible role of thyroid autoimmunity. J Psychosom Res. 2002 Sep;53(3):789-93.----------Degner D, Haust M, Meller J, Rüther E, & Reulbach U (2014). Association between autoimmune thyroiditis and depressive disorder in psychiatric outpatients. European archives of psychiatry and clinical neuroscience PMID: 25193677... Read more »

Degner D, Haust M, Meller J, Rüther E, & Reulbach U. (2014) Association between autoimmune thyroiditis and depressive disorder in psychiatric outpatients. European archives of psychiatry and clinical neuroscience. PMID: 25193677  

  • September 29, 2014
  • 06:07 PM
  • 57 views

Cat and Dogs: seeking solutions with sniffing canines and science

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

Hi Mia and Julie,  First of all, I LOVE your blog! After meeting at SPARCS this past summer (summer for us in North America.. I take it summer is just beginning in Australia!), I’ve followed it closely.  You do amazing things for the promotion of  canine science. Serious love. A bit of background for the readers: I’m currently doing my PhD at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada, under the supervision of Dr. Simon Gadbois. Dr. Gadbois has an amazing amount of knowledge and experience in the science of sniffing (just check out Gadbois & Reeve, 2014 link below!).  He’s trained sniffer dogs for the conservation of ribbon snakes and wood turtles, to track coyotes, and to detect invasive pests in lumber. He and I have taken on a different type of project and are studying the intricacies of biomedical detection dogs, specifically, the very interesting phenomenon of Diabetic Alert Dogs.  Cat Reeve at #SPARCS2014 where she won the 'Best Emerging Researcher' prize I say interesting because there’s anecdotal evidence suggesting that some dogs alert their owners to hypoglycemic events (low blood sugar). In 2008, Deborah Wells published a series of case studies where dogs were reported as signalling (barking, licking, pawing etc. the individual) while their owners were awake, while they were sleeping, and even when their owners were in a different room with the door closed! And this is with no previous training!  Isn’t this fantastic! Severe hypoglycemic events can be extremely dangerous for individuals with diabetes. If not treated, they can lead to seizures, comas, and even death. The fact that dogs may be able to alert an individual before a serious hypoglycemic event means less worry about hypoglycaemia unawareness, and blood sugar dropping over night when individuals are unconscious.Given that dogs are signalling through closed doors, it is assumed that the dogs smell something that alerts them to a change in the physiology of their owner (as opposed to behavioural cues, as is believed to be the case with seizure alert dogs). There are many companies that have taken advantage of this supposed ability, and have trained Diabetic Alert Dogs (DADs) to sell to individuals with diabetes.  In my own searches, I have found no company that publicly provides information as to how they train their dogs. However, according to recent studies (see Gonder-Frederick et al., 2013 and Rooney et al., 2011 below) these trained DADs dogs contribute greatly to the families of individuals’ with diabetes; they signal consistently and, consequently, significantly reduce the number of hypoglycemic events an individual experiences. Now, if it is in fact an olfactory cue that dogs use to identify a drop in blood sugar in their owners, one would expect that if you presented one of these trained DADs with the “scent” of hypoglycemia without the individual present (just like having the owner with diabetes on the other side of a door), the dog would still signal.  Dehlinger and colleagues recently tested three DADs in a lab setting, presenting the dogs with human biological samples that were obtained identically to the way the samples used to train the dogs were obtained. In this study, none of the three dogs could pick out a ... Read more »

  • September 29, 2014
  • 10:02 AM
  • 63 views

Eye contact makes us more aware of our own bodies

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

If you've ever felt acutely self conscious upon making eye contact with another person, a new study may help you understand why. Matias Baltazar and his colleagues have found that making eye contact activates people's awareness of their own bodies. That feeling of self consciousness induced by mutual gaze might be based in part on the fact that your brain is suddenly more attuned to your body.The researchers presented 32 participants with a series of positive and negative images on a computer screen, and after each they asked them to rate the intensity of their emotional reaction. Crucially, each image was preceded either by a fixation cross or a photograph of a man or woman's face. These faces were either looking right at the participants, as if making eye contact, or they had their gaze averted. The participants' were also wired up to a skin conductance machine that measured the sweatiness of their fingers. This provided an objective measure of the participants' emotional reactions to the images, to be compared against their subjective assessments of their reactions.The participants' accuracy at judging their own physiological reactions was more accurate for those images that followed a photograph that appeared to be making eye contact. "Our results support the view that human adults' bodily awareness becomes more acute when they are subjected to another's gaze," the researchers said.A problem with this methodology is that greater bodily arousal is known to enhance performance in psychological tests, so perhaps eye contact was simply exerting its effects this way. But the researchers checked, and the boost to self awareness of eye contact wasn't merely a side-effect of increased arousal - the participants' physiological reactivity (an indicator of arousal) was no greater after eye contact photos than after gaze averted photos. The performance-enhancing effect of eye contact was also specific to bodily awareness. The researchers checked this by confronting participants with occasional memory tests through the experiment, for words that had appeared on-screen. Participant performance was no better after looking at faces that made eye contact, compared with the averted gaze faces.Baltazar and his team said the fact that eye contact enhances our awareness of our own bodies could have therapeutic implications. For example, they said it could "stimulate interoceptive awareness in people whose condition is associated with interoceptive hyposensitivity, [such as] anorexia nervosa and major depression disorder." _________________________________ Baltazar M, Hazem N, Vilarem E, Beaucousin V, Picq JL, & Conty L (2014). Eye contact elicits bodily self-awareness in human adults. Cognition, 133 (1), 120-7 PMID: 25014360 Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

... Read more »

Baltazar M, Hazem N, Vilarem E, Beaucousin V, Picq JL, & Conty L. (2014) Eye contact elicits bodily self-awareness in human adults. Cognition, 133(1), 120-7. PMID: 25014360  

  • September 29, 2014
  • 07:02 AM
  • 2 views

Simple Jury Persuasion: Should you consider 3-D for your courtroom videos?

by Doug Keene in The Jury Room

Evidence admissibility issues aside, the answer is, “only if you can do it as well as they did in the 3D movie Polar Express”. As it turns out, 3D isn’t that much more impactful than 2D unless it’s done really, really well. Psychologists and neuroscientists studying emotion often use film clips for their research. So […]

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Simple Jury Persuasion: Be Powerful in the Courtroom
Simple Jury Persuasion: Is that foreigner lying up there on the witness stand?


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Bride DL, Crowell SE, Baucom BR, Kaufman EA, O'Connor CG, Skidmore CR, & Yaptangco M. (2014) Testing the Effectiveness of 3D Film for Laboratory-Based Studies of Emotion. PLoS ONE, 9(8). PMID: 25170878  

  • September 29, 2014
  • 04:35 AM
  • 63 views

Term vs. preterm birth and the presentation of autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

The paper by Katherine Bowers and colleagues [1] continues the interest in the concept of 'the autisms' with their observations on the presentation of autism (and its comorbidities) when looking at those "born preterm versus those born at term".We'd better get back, 'cause it'll be dark soon, and they mostly come at night... mostlyBased on an analysis of quite a healthy participant number heading up to 900 "males and females with autism spectrum disorder", authors reported on several phenotypic differences between the 13% born preterm compared to the majority born following a full-term pregnancy. These differences, also influenced by gender, were in core areas such as language skills and the presence of comorbidities such as sleep apnea and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The authors conclude that their results "may have implications for understanding the underpinnings of a subset of individuals with autism spectrum disorder and contribute to the development of focused treatments for autism spectrum disorder among children born preterm".Whilst one should always be a little cautious about making too much of any specific link with something like preterm birth (see here to illustrate the many and varied outcomes following this variable) I was interested in the Bowers' results. I think back to similar research into autism subgroups from Unwin and colleagues [2] (talked about in a previous post) describing how low birth weight was "associated with greater sleep disturbances".Although many variables can affect foetal growth measures, preterm birth can adversely impact on birth weight and with that, one might see a possible common feature appearing in relation to issues at birth. That being said, the strength of any association between preterm birth and something like the comorbid presence of ADHD in cases of autism is likely to be a complex issue as per the findings from Harris and colleagues [3] who concluded that in the general population: "former late preterm infants have similar rates of LD [learning disabilities] and ADHD as term infants".Bowers et al also took into account a role for gender in their results, reporting that there may be more to see here. Although quite an obvious variable to look at when it comes to autism (see here), there is perhaps not as much appreciation of how sex might link into autism phenotypes as one might imagine. Recently, Reinhardt and colleagues [4] did venture into this area, concluding that whilst they did not see any "significant effects of sex or a diagnostic group by sex interaction" when it came to autism presentation, further research is indicated in this area. I might add that such investigations might also wish to look further at comorbidity too, or autism plus [5] if you like.Music to close and Bulletproof by La Roux.----------[1] Bowers K. et al. Phenotypic differences in individuals with autism spectrum disorder born preterm and at term gestation. Autism. 2014 Sep 5. pii: 1362361314547366.[2] Unwin LM. et al. A "bottom-up" approach to aetiological research in autism spectrum disorders. Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Sep 19;7:606.[3] Harris MN. et al. ADHD and learning disabilities in former late preterm infants: a population-based birth cohort. Pediatrics. 2013 Sep;132(3):e630-6.[4] Reinhardt VP. et al. Examination of Sex Differences in a Large Sample of Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Typical Development. J Autism Dev Disord. 2014 Sep 5.[5] Gillberg C. & Fernell E. Autism Plus Versus Autism Pure. J Autism Dev Disord. 2014 Jun 24.----------Bowers K, Wink LK, Pottenger A, McDougle CJ, & Erickson C (2014). Phenotypic differences in individuals with autism spectrum disorder born preterm and at term gestation. Autism : the international journal of research and practice PMID: 25192860... Read more »

  • September 28, 2014
  • 12:00 PM
  • 82 views

Numbers on a scale: How bad did you say your pain was?

by Bronwyn Thompson in Healthskills: Skills for Healthy Living

Have you ever been asked to give your pain rating on a scale of 0 – 10 (where 0 = no pain at all and 10 = most extreme pain you can imagine)? Have you ever tried to work out whether today’s pain is worse than yesterdays? What does a pain rating tell us?... Read more »

  • September 27, 2014
  • 08:37 AM
  • 110 views

The Memory Fades, The Emotion Remains

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

People with Alzheimer’s disease can experience severe memory impairments.However, according to a new study, the emotions associated with events can persist long after the events themselves have been forgotten: Feelings Without Memory in Alzheimer Disease In their paper, the researchers, University of Iowa neurologists Edmarie Guzman-Velez and colleagues, showed volunteers a series of emotional video […]The post The Memory Fades, The Emotion Remains appeared first on Neuroskeptic.... Read more »

Guzmán-Vélez E, Feinstein JS, & Tranel D. (2014) Feelings without memory in Alzheimer disease. Cognitive and behavioral neurology : official journal of the Society for Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology, 27(3), 117-29. PMID: 25237742  

  • September 27, 2014
  • 03:50 AM
  • 86 views

Yes, people with autism do have headaches

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I don't mean to be haughty but a sentence included in the paper by Victorio [1] led to the title of today's very quick post. Based on a chart review of patients diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) attending a neurology clinic, the author concluded that "ASD patients, despite being known to have indifference to pain, can experience headaches".Pain is something which has cropped up quite a bit in the autism research arena and has appeared more than once on this blog (see here and see here). The suggestion of an 'indifference' to pain being potentially over-represented in relation to autism I think stretches back to some older work which I have to say, has been pretty widely disputed in more recent years [2].The focus on migraine as "the most frequent headache type" reported by Victorio might also be quite interesting in light of other research linking migraine headaches to some of the sensory issues reported in cases of autism [3]. Moving migraine away from just the head was also a suggestion put forward by another author [4] which opens up a whole new world of possibilities...----------[1] Victorio M. Headaches in patients with autism spectrum disorder. The Journal of Headache and Pain 2014, 15(Suppl 1):B37.[2] Nader R. et al. Expression of pain in children with autism. Clin J Pain. 2004 Mar-Apr;20(2):88-97.[3] Sullivan JC. et al. The presence of migraines and its association with sensory hyperreactivity and anxiety symptomatology in children with autism spectrum disorder. Autism. 2013 Sep 26;18(6):743-747.[4] Casanova MF. The minicolumnopathy of autism: A link between migraine and gastrointestinal symptoms. Med Hypotheses. 2008;70(1):73-80.----------Victorio, M. (2014). EHMTI-0290. Headaches in patients with autism spectrum disorder The Journal of Headache and Pain, 15 (Suppl 1) DOI: 10.1186/1129-2377-15-S1-B37... Read more »

  • September 26, 2014
  • 02:15 PM
  • 107 views

“GMO” Foods (Once Again) Proven Safe

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

GMO, I shudder every time I hear someone talk about the “dangers”. It’s one of the new buzzwords that doesn’t actually mean anything, but still manages to scare people. Well a new scientific review reports that the performance and health of food-producing animals consuming genetically engineered feed, first introduced 18 years ago, has been comparable to that of animals consuming non-GE feed. Not that this will stop people from spreading fear, but it’s a start.... Read more »

  • September 26, 2014
  • 07:02 AM
  • 56 views

Would you prefer a smaller government? Actually, no you would not. 

by Rita Handrich in The Jury Room

For a number of years now, we have been asking our mock jurors what role they think government should play in our society and giving them a number of options among which to choose. Most of them say government should play a smaller role and we certainly have all heard the media messages that tell us […]

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Men prefer boxes and women prefer ellipses?
You might be a conservative if…you prefer Wal-Mart to Trader Joe’s?


... Read more »

  • September 26, 2014
  • 05:32 AM
  • 77 views

Schizophrenia after child and adolescent psychiatric disorders

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

More of a 'bring to your attention' post today, as I bring to your attention(!) the paper by Cecilie Frejstrup Maibing and colleagues [1] who concluded: "The risk of being diagnosed with schizophrenia spectrum disorders [SSD] after a child and adolescent psychiatric disorder was significantly increased particularly in the short term but also in the long-term period"."I coulda been a contender"The findings were based on an analysis of one of those very informative Scandinavian registries - based in Denmark - which initially identified over 25,000 people born between 1990-2000 diagnosed "with child and adolescent psychiatric disorders". Some 1200 of these people were subsequently diagnosed with schizophrenia spectrum disorders leading to the various conclusions and statistics being produced including: "The risk of schizophrenia spectrum disorders was highly elevated, particularly within the first year after onset of the child and adolescent psychiatric disorder, and remained significantly elevated >5 years with an incidence rate ratio of 4.93". Further: "among persons diagnosed with a child and adolescent psychiatric disorder between the ages 0-13 years and 14-17 years, 1.68% and 8.74 %, respectively, will be diagnosed with a schizophrenia spectrum disorder <8 years after onset of the child and adolescent psychiatric disorder".With my autism research blogging hat on, and without hopefully making too many sweeping generalisations, I found the Maibing research to be rather interesting. I've previously talked about spectrums colliding on this blog (see here) with specific reference to the work of Kenneth Gadow [2] for example, on "an interrelation between ASD [autism spectrum disorder] and SSD symptoms". That and a post on 'labels and lumping' (see here) affirms that there may indeed be common ground between some of the spectrums, which I might add, are probably plural spectrums [3] (see my take here). As per other research on the possibility of Asperger syndrome in first-episode psychosis (see here), diagnostic vigilance seems to be a key point to take from the Maibing work, and that appears to extend well beyond just what happens after a diagnosis of autism is received...So, Golden Touch by Razorlight.----------[1] Maibing CF. et al. Risk of Schizophrenia Increases After All Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Disorders: A Nationwide Study. Schizophr Bull. 2014 Sep 5. pii: sbu119.[2] Gadow KD. Schizophrenia spectrum and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms in autism spectrum disorder and controls. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2012 Oct;51(10):1076-84.[3] Arnedo J. et al. Uncovering the Hidden Risk Architecture of the Schizophrenias: Confirmation in Three Independent Genome-Wide Association Studies. Am J Psychiatry. 2014. September 15.----------Maibing CF, Pedersen CB, Benros ME, Mortensen PB, Dalsgaard S, & Nordentoft M (2014). Risk of Schizophrenia Increases After All Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Disorders: A Nationwide Study. Schizophrenia bulletin PMID: 25193974... Read more »

  • September 25, 2014
  • 05:10 AM
  • 95 views

Temporal trends in US autism prevalence: mainly real increase

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Diagnosed autism prevalence has risen dramatically in the U.S over the last several decades and continued to trend upward as of birth year 2005. The increase is mainly real and has occurred mostly since the late 1980s"."They call me Cha Cha because I'm the best dancer at St. Bernadette's"That was the conclusion reached in the paper by Cynthia Nevison [1] (open-access) following her analysis of temporal trends in autism diagnosis for birth years between 1970 and 2005. Based on an analysis of datasets derived from IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and the CDDS (California Department of Developmental Services), the author suggested that between 75-80% "of the tracked increase in autism since 1988 is due to an actual increase in the disorder rather than to changing diagnostic criteria". The question of what environmental factors might have been driving such an increase in cases is also discussed in the Nevison paper, with the author concluding "children’s exposure to most of the top ten toxic compounds has remained flat or decreased over this same time frame". That top 10 list by the way, seems to come at least partly from the Landrigan paper talked about a couple of years back (see here).There is quite a bit of information included in the Nevison paper which I'm reluctant to write a mega-blog entry on at this time. This includes various caveats about the use of IDEA and CDDS databases and their constraints on for example, what ASDs (autism spectrum disorders) are included in the datasets. I will however summarise some of the main findings in relation to the environmental factors probed by the author bearing in mind that autism research does not appear to be her main area of scientific interest (with all due respect).So:Air pollution... something which has cropped up with ever-increasing frequency in the peer-reviewed research on autism (see here and see here for example). Nevison concludes: "there is no obvious evidence to suggest that trends in estimated vehicular emissions or directly measured air pollution are consistent with the sharp temporal increase in U.S. autism". So no smoking tailpipe (exhaust) there then as per other recent research findings [2].Mercury in vaccines... a topic guaranteed to furrow brows and raise blood pressure in some quarters (see here and see here for example). Nevison discusses the phaseout of thimerosal (thiomersal) from paediatric vaccines used in the US concluding that "the expansion of thimerosal exposure in the late 1980s and early 1990s coincides closely with the rise in autism around that time". But... "the temporal trends in autism and thimerosal following the childhood vaccine thimerosal phaseout are incompatible". Other sources of mercury exposure get a similarly 'unlikely' mark from Nevison.Organophosphate (OP) pesticide exposure... an interesting area which again has been covered previously on this blog (see here and see here). Nevison points out the declining use of such pesticides in the US following "the adoption of crops genetically modified to produce Bt toxin, which repels targeted insect pests, thus reducing the need for external insecticides". Recognising that pesticides are not to be trifled with (see here) I've always been a little confused about the mechanism(s) through which OP exposure could theoretically impact on the presentation of autism. I know people have talked about PON1 and autism [3] (some autism) but I do feel as though the primary effect of OPs - acting on acetlycholinesterase -  is something in need of a lot more research with autism in mind before anyone gets too carried away. There is however a caveat to the pesticides-autism conclusion by the author following some mention of "the rapidly increasing application of glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup®". She continues: "it appears that glyphosate cannot be responsible for the first autism cases in the 1930s and is unlikely to have caused the late 1980s uptick, but could be interacting in recent years with other toxins to drive up the prevalence of U.S. autism". Depending on where you look, you'll get various different messages about the pros and cons of glyphosate. I remember reading a report a few years back (see here) authored by one of the researchers involved in that 'organic food might be better for you' paper recently (see here) which painted a rather disturbing picture of the product. For balance, I'm going to also refer you to the various documents provided by Monsanto (the producer of Roundup) for their response to safety concerns. When it comes to a search of PubMed with the terms 'autism and glyphosate' the current result is zero although it has been mentioned elsewhere in the peer-reviewed domain [4]. Maternal obesity... I'm being quite careful here accepting the previous discussions in this area of autism research (see here). Nevison reports that: "the time trend in obesity among U.S. women correlates well to that of autism, suggesting maternal obesity may be a direct influence or a comorbid consequence of the dietary factors contributing to autism, or both". One needs to bear in mind that the United States was the focus on these findings and as such the conclusions may not pertain to other parts of the globe. I probably don't need to say it but one should also bear in mind the saying 'correlation is not the same as causation' too. There are also other issues which have been discounted by Nevison as being related to the autism prevalence. Lead (Pb) is one of them; something which I personally would not be so keen to disregard given the more recent evidence on even trace amounts of this stuff not being great for the developing child (see here). This on top of what has been talked about with autism in mind (see here). I have a few other points to make which were perhaps not readily implied in the Nevison paper:... Read more »

  • September 25, 2014
  • 03:00 AM
  • 26 views

How do male scientists balance the demands of work and family?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Academia remains heavily gendered, thanks in part to historical stereotypes that assert men are suited to solving complex problems and ready to put "great works" over other concerns such as community or family. Psychology and sociology have shown how this disadvantages women working in these fields, particularly if they wish to have children.A new study led by Sarah Damaske of Pennsylvania State University takes a different approach, looking at what this world is like for men. From the 73 male scientists interviewed, four groupings emerged. A minority (15 per cent) indicated they saw a fundamental incompatibility between raising a family and success in science, and as a consequence intended to forgo childrearing entirely. A second group (30 per cent) saw no such incompatibility… as long as you have a wife to raise the kids full-time. These "Traditional Breadwinners" were slightly older (average age 47) and more likely to be full professors.
 They were quick to accept that the family duties performed by their wives were key to their own career success. Some recognised their fortune and the compromises their partners made, whereas others saw the spheres of science and family as separate and inevitably gendered. To the question “Do you think that having children then is difficult to manage with being a scientist?”, one responded “No, absolutely not. That’s why you have a wife.”But norms about working and being a father are changing, with more men wanting a greater role at home and more career opportunities for their partners. This study suggests that while some male scientists are prepared to follow through on this with action, the egalitarian commitment of others is more theoretical. This latter group (22 per cent) are "Neotraditionalists": they are opposed to the idea that their working partners ought to devote themselves only to childcare, but when tensions arose between work and home life, these men presumed that their own (male) career ought to come first. They often took pains to distance themselves from having caused these tensions. One characterised his wife facing a career break during the early years of childrearing as "her issue". Another stated that “there’s more expected of the women in terms of family life”, and a third that women were the ones “burdened" with childcare. This fatalism was a common theme of the Neotraditionalists: the situation is unfair, but what are you going to do?How about reducing your own work activities to accommodate the career of your female partner? This was the strategy taken by the final group, the “Egalitarian Partners”. These men (33 per cent of the sample) were likely to be together with another scientist, and saw each career track as equally important. In their interviews, they spoke of concessions made by both sides, and the recognition that other colleagues were outpacing them. Their language also betrayed awareness that their decisions were not in line with their gendered role: one qualified his decisions by saying "I’m trying to be a sensitive new age guy". Data exists that suggests fathers are not expected by most managers to actually use organisational work-family policies such as crèches or shorter work-time; the true egalitarians are going against the grain, or even "acting female" by placing family as equal to or more important than their devotion to the Big Questions.Without greater societal efforts to overhaul institutional sexism, these challenges may remain for the Egalitarians. Non-child-rearing men are more likely to reach positions of power thanks to the extra time and energy they can devote to their work, and they may see less cause to introduce systems or drive cultural change to support those men who want to be an active partner in the home, however large their number may be at entry level. As a consequence, Damaske concludes, “the academic science pipeline may begin to leak young men as well as young women, increasing the overall loss of talent in academic science.”_________________________________ Damaske, S., Ecklund, E., Lincoln, A., & White, V. (2014). Male Scientists' Competing Devotions to Work and Family: Changing Norms in a Male-Dominated Profession Work and Occupations DOI: 10.1177/0730888414539171 --further reading--Childless women are the most productive staff of all, study findsGirlie scientist role models could do more harm than goodWhy female business owners are less successful but just as satisfiedPost written by Alex Fradera (@alexfradera) for the BPS Research Digest.
... Read more »

  • September 24, 2014
  • 08:30 AM
  • 79 views

What Influences Whether Owners Pick Up After Their Dog?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

What’s the scoop on picking up poop? New research by Christopher Lowe et al (2014) investigates.Photo: Jakkrit Orrasri / ShutterstockThe study consisted of an environmental survey of several popular dog walking locations, and an online survey that was completed by 933 participants from across the UK (83% were women).Eight footpaths in Lancashire, in the north of England, were visited in March/April 2010 to check for dog waste. This included a mix of urban and rural locations, and covered the path as well as about 3m either side. A tow path along the canal had 40 dog poos in the space of 25m; at a nature reserve, a path by a railway embankment had a wall along it with a pile of bagged dog faeces on the other side. On a footpath at a reservoir, the researchers found 269 bags of dog waste in 1000m.The presence or absence of suitable receptacles for bags is not the whole picture, as one path with no trash cans or dog waste bins had very low levels of faeces. In order to understand more about this, the researchers designed a questionnaire. Ethan Prater / Creative CommonsNow you are probably thinking that people might not be honest in their statements about how often they pick up after their dog, and you have a point. This is an issue for any questionnaire research because people want to present themselves in a good light. The researchers tried to get round this by advertising it as a survey about dog walking, rather than poop scooping, so as to get a more balanced set of participants. And the results are still interesting, so read on…First of all, the not surprising result is that 98% of dog owners agreed that owners should pick up after their dog if it poos on the pavement, and 97% agreed with this for parks and playing fields. However, they did not necessarily think they should always have to pick up after their dog. Only 56% agreed that, regardless of the location, people should pick up. In particular, when it came to countryside or to farmland with livestock, a significant minority thought that dog owners should not have to clean up their dog’s waste (34% for open countryside, 45% for farmland).People thought the most important reason for picking up after dogs was that it was “the right thing to do”. Reducing the spread of disease and parasites were the next most important reasons.The proportion of people who said they pick up after their dog in this survey is higher than the 63% found in observational research by Westgarth et al (2010). However, even if people have been overly optimistic about their habits, many of them still indicated that it depends on the context, and that there are some places where they don’t. vastateparkstaff / Creative CommonsA small number of participants admitted to sometimes picking up the poo, but then discarding the bag by leaving it somewhere such as the side of a path. This can be a significant problem because it is unsightly and even biodegradable bags take time to decompose; it can cause additional difficulties for landscape workers, such as if a bag bursts while strimming; and it preserves the faeces for longer.The researchers say, “The path audits suggested that visibility was a key factor in the behaviour of dog walkers with respect to dog waste and that some owners may only clean up after their dogs when obliged to (e.g. in the presence of others). It was considered that given the opportunity these dog walkers would seek to discard the bagged dog waste as quickly as possible and respondents considered that this was also an important factor influencing this behaviour.” It seems that some dog owners are motivated by being seen to do the right thing, rather than actually doing it.This study shows that a number of factors influence whether or not dog owners clean up dog waste, including the location, environment, visibility, location of trash cans, perceptions of the area, as well as social and personal factors. Future research on the social psychological elements would be especially useful for designing campaigns to change behaviour.Is dog waste a problem in your neighbourhood?ReferencesLowe, C., Williams, K., Jenkinson, S., & Toogood, M. (2014). Environmental and social impacts of domestic dog waste in the UK: investigating barriers to behavioural change in dog walkers International Journal of Environment and Waste Management, 13 (4) DOI: 10.1504/IJEWM.2014.060452 ... Read more »

Westgarth, C., Christley, R., Pinchbeck, G., Gaskell, R., Dawson, S., & Bradshaw, J. (2010) Dog behaviour on walks and the effect of use of the leash. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 125(1-2), 38-46. DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2010.03.007  

  • September 24, 2014
  • 07:02 AM
  • 103 views

Unfaithful partner? Would you rather be seen as mature– or as competent and strong?

by Doug Keene in The Jury Room

According to new research, you can’t have both. Inspired by women who told them they “would not vote for Hillary Clinton [in the Presidential primaries a decade later] because she forgave then-President Bill Clinton’s infidelity”, these researchers looked at how male and female observers viewed male and female victims of infidelity based on how they […]

Related posts:
How leaders look: Competent and trustworthy, but not dominant
Is it best to be competent, warm, or moral?
You wanted to be a leader! Act like one! (or else)


... Read more »

  • September 24, 2014
  • 06:58 AM
  • 150 views

Psychiatric effects of childhood inflammation?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Higher levels of the systemic inflammatory marker IL-6 [interleukin 6] in childhood are associated with an increased risk of developing depression and psychosis in young adulthood". So said the paper by Golam Khandaker and colleagues [1] looking at the growing link between inflammation and psychiatry.The bright light of Autumn @ Wikipedia The name Khandaker has appeared before on this blog (see here and see here), most recently with research looking at a possible link between the presence of a neurodevelopmental disorder and subsequent reports of psychotic experiences [2]. It's all rather fascinating research.With the most recent investigation in mind...Two inflammatory markers, IL-6 and C-Reactive Protein (CRP), were the variables of choice as per their inflammatory link (see here and see here). Said inflammatory markers were analysed in blood samples from quite a nice cohort (~4500) of 9-year olds who took part in the ALSPAC initiative. When their cohort were 18 years old, their mental health was assessed for things like depression and psychotic experiences (PEs) using various questionnaires and semi-structured interviews.Results: depending on whether participants fell into groups suggestive of low, medium or high inflammation on the basis of inflammatory markers seemed to have some effect on their mental health almost a decade later. So: "participants in the top third of IL-6 values compared with the bottom third at age 9 years were more likely to be depressed... at age 18 years". This finding was reported after correction for various potentially interfering variables.Additionally: "Risks of PEs and of psychotic disorder at age 18 years were also increased with higher IL-6 levels at baseline".The authors conclude: "Higher IL-6 levels in childhood were associated with subsequent risks of depression and PEs in a dose-dependent manner".There is, as one might expect, some accompanying media interest in these results (see here). I was interested to see that Judy Van de Water commented on the Khandaker results. Regular readers of the autism research scene will probably already known about Dr Van de Water's interest in immune function (including inflammation) and autism previously talked about on this blog (see here for example). She is quoted talking about: "kids who get fevers more often and for longer periods of time may also have higher levels of inflammation". Mmm...Whilst the Khandaker results are very interesting, as always, I do think there is more to do in this area. Aside from correlating spot analyses of inflammatory markers with events almost a decade later, IL-6 is portrayed as the bad guy in this scenario based on it's connection to systemic inflammation. But things are rarely so straight-forward as per the paper by Scheller and colleagues [3] (open-access) on the two faces of IL-6. To boil depression and PEs solely down to childhood inflammation also does little to say how complex such conditions are; something which Dr Khandaker's other research has also hinted at. I've also talked about other correlates and things like depression including vitamin D levels (see here), certain bacteria (see here) and possibly even something like dietary components (see here) showing potential involvement. It's complicated as I said.Oh and headlines like 'Could aspirin and ibuprofen help fight depression?' are perhaps a little premature at this time... but at least they didn't suggest paracetamol.Music to close. MAGIC! and Rude (Marry that Girl!).----------[1] Khandaker GM. et al. Association of Serum Interleukin 6 and C-Reactive Protein in Childhood With Depression and Psychosis in Young Adult Life. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014. August 13.[2] Khandaker GM. et al. A population-based longitudinal study of childhood neurodevelopmental disorders, IQ and subsequent risk of psychotic experiences in adolescence. Psychol Med. 2014 Apr 25:1-10.[3] Scheller J. et al. The pro- and anti-inflammatory properties of the cytokine interleukin-6. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Molecular Cell Research. 2011; 1813: 878-888.----------Golam M. Khandaker, Rebecca M. Pearson, Stanley Zammit, Glyn Lewis, & Peter B. Jones (2014). Association of Serum Interleukin 6 and C-Reactive Protein in Childhood With Depression and Psychosis in Young Adult Life JAMA Psychiatry : doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.1332... Read more »

Golam M. Khandaker, Rebecca M. Pearson, Stanley Zammit, Glyn Lewis, & Peter B. Jones. (2014) Association of Serum Interleukin 6 and C-Reactive Protein in Childhood With Depression and Psychosis in Young Adult Life. JAMA Psychiatry. info:/doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.1332

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