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  • May 30, 2015
  • 03:07 AM
  • 5 views

Autism and altered levels of essential fatty acids

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Brigandi et al. 2015. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 16: 10061-10076.A quote to begin this post is taken from the paper by Sarah Brigandi and colleagues [1] (open-access available here): "Our study demonstrates an alteration in the PUFA [polyunsaturated fatty acids] profile and increased production of a PUFA-derived metabolite in autistic patients, supporting the hypothesis that abnormal lipid metabolism is implicated in autism."The Brigandi results were based on the analysis of blood samples for fatty acid content for "121 autistic patients and 110 non-autistic, non-developmentally delayed controls, aged 3-17." Participants with autism met DSM-IV criteria and CARS scores for autism although did not include those "on the broader autism spectrum" diagnosed with Asperger syndrome or PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified) for example.Using various analytical techniques including gas chromatography and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS), authors assayed for various fatty acids (saturates, monosaturates and polyunstaurates) and also levels of that "PUFA-derived metabolite" prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) a "pro-inflammatory AA [arachidonic acid] metabolite" that "increases the risk of neuroinflammation which can lead to excessive production of reactive oxygen species (ROS)." For some further background you might wish to have a look at a previous occasion that PGE2 has been discussed on this blog (see here) and another occasion covering ROS (see here).Results: "a number of PUFA, mainly AA and DHA [docosahexaenoic acid], were significantly lower in autistic individuals than controls." DHA, by the way, is known as an omega-3 fatty acid, so called because of the specific positioning of a chemical double bond in its chemical arrangement. Alongside another omega-3 fatty acid called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), this is the stuff that is usually listed as the active ingredient in the various fish oil supplements that you find dotted around these days.When it came to levels of PGE2, Brigandi et al report some really quite interesting results albeit based on the analysis of considerably smaller participant groups (autism n=20 and controls n=20). So: "All control samples were under the detection limit for PGE2 detection of <0.71 ng/mL." The same however could not be said for the autism group where "PGE2 levels were detected in 9 of the 20 plasma samples from autistic individuals, ranging from 1.21 to 3.91 ng/mL." This was translated as a "marked difference" between the groups.Just before I head into what these results *might* mean, it's worthwhile pointing out a few caveats surrounding the Brigandi study. As the authors report: "we did not conduct an age-matched nor gender-matched analysis between the autistic and control groups." Fair enough, so we can't rule out those factors impacting on the results obtained. Further: "Fasting was not a requirement prior to blood draws" and authors "did not collect dietary information from study participants." This last point in particular combines with a perhaps a too sweeping generalisation from the authors that they "do not expect dietary differences between the groups to be a primary explanation" for some of their results. Diets can and do differ when it comes to autism [2] and sometime in the most serious ways (see here). One needs to be very mindful of that fact more so when it comes to actual fat intake in cases of autism [3].That all being said, I do think that these results invite much further study of fatty acids and autism (some autism) on top of quite a bit of other research in this area [4]. As per my previous posts in this area, the collected data so far on supplementing fatty acids in cases of autism is not exactly 'concrete' in terms of effectiveness (see here). Whereas an important comorbidity noted in quite a few cases of autism, ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) in whole or in part, is enjoying some rather more positive findings (see here and see here) indeed, even more generally [5], core autism does not seem to be benefiting as much from the supplementation side of things. It could be worthwhile focusing less on syndromes and more on symptoms [6] when it comes to supplementation as per the idea that fatty acids might be [partially] linked to things like reading ability (see here) or even with critical periods of requirement [7] in mind but I'd like to see a lot more science done on this first. That also includes looking at other potential biological correlates too [8]...Maybe the VIDOMA study will provide a little more insight?Music: Sheppard - Geronimo.----------[1] Brigandi SA. et al. Autistic Children Exhibit Decreased Levels of Essential Fatty Acids in Red Blood Cells. Int J Mol Sci. 2015 May 4;16(5):10061-10076.[2] Kuschner ES. et al. A preliminary study of self-reported food selectivity in adolescents and young adults with autism spectrum disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. 2015; 15-16: 53-59.[3] Marí-Bauset S. et al. Fat intake in children with autism spectrum disorder in the Mediterranean region (Valencia, Spain). Nutr Neurosci. 2015 May 28.[4] Bell JG. et al. Red blood cell fatty acid compositions in a patient with autistic spectrum disorder: a characteristic abnormality in neurodevelopmental disorders? Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2000 Jul-Aug;63(1-2):21-5.[5] Raine A. et al. Reduction in behavior problems with omega-3 supplementation in children aged 8–16 years: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, stratified, parallel-group trial. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry. 2015; 56: 509-520.[6] Bent S. et al. Internet-based, randomized, controlled trial of omega-3 fatty acids for hyperactivity in autism. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2014 Jun;53(6):... Read more »

Brigandi SA, Shao H, Qian SY, Shen Y, Wu BL, & Kang JX. (2015) Autistic Children Exhibit Decreased Levels of Essential Fatty Acids in Red Blood Cells. International journal of molecular sciences, 16(5), 10061-10076. PMID: 25946342  

  • May 29, 2015
  • 04:30 PM
  • 15 views

Restricting firearms access for people who misuse alcohol may prevent violence

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Restricting access to firearms for people who misuse alcohol could prevent firearm violence, but policies that more clearly define alcohol misuse should be developed to facilitate enforcement, according to a review of existing research and public policies by the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program.... Read more »

  • May 29, 2015
  • 07:02 AM
  • 27 views

I bought a house that is simply too  big and now I have to hire a cleaning service… 

by Doug Keene in The Jury Room

Many of us have been taught to self-promote and we may even think others enjoy hearing of our successes. We’ve written about the principle of schadenfreude here before and if you recall those posts you may have already happily predicted that this will be a post about just how annoying those braggarts are to their […]

Related posts:
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Facial disfigurement is too disturbing, or why I won’t hire you
So. Are you simply a Millennial or are you just a narcissist?


... Read more »

  • May 29, 2015
  • 03:45 AM
  • 41 views

Reduced rumination and aggressive thoughts from a probiotic?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I've taken my time to come to discussing the findings from Laura Steenbergen and colleagues [1] (open-access) providing "the first evidence that the intake of probiotics may help reduce negative thoughts associated with sad mood." It's not that I didn't find such results to be really interesting and having potential for quite a few different areas of psychiatry, but rather that other blogging topics have popped up in the meantime. No mind, we're here now.Based on a growing evidence base suggesting that those trillions of wee beasties which call our gastrointestinal (GI) tract home might be doing so much more than helping us to digest our food and produce the odd vitamin or two [2], Steenbergen et al set about looking at whether probiotic supplementation "may reduce cognitive reactivity in non-depressed individuals." Just in case you need further explanation about what was being tested, we are told that: "Cognitive reactivity refers to the activation of dysfunctional patterns of thinking that are triggered by subtle changes in mood, such as ruminative (e.g., recurrent thoughts about possible causes and consequences of one’s distress), aggressive (e.g., to think about hurting others or oneself), hopelessness (e.g., loss of motivation and expectations about the future), and/or suicidal thoughts (e.g., to think that one’s death is the only way to end the suffering)." The probiotic under examination was a mixture called 'Ecologic®Barrier' - "a multispecies probiotic containing Bifidobacterium bifidum W23, Bifidobacterium lactis W52, Lactobacillus acidophilus W37, Lactobacillus brevis W63, Lactobacillus casei W56, Lactobacillus salivarius W24, and Lactococcus lactis (W19 and W58)." This is also not the first time that this preparation has been looked at by some authors on the Steenbergen paper either [3].Using a "triple-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, pre- and post-intervention assessment design" - triple blind meaning that group allocator, participants and outcome assessor were all blinded as to whether participants were given Ecologic®Barrier or a placebo (maize starch and maltodextrins) - researchers examined data for two groups of young adults (approximately 20 years of age) allocated to either probiotic (n=20) or placebo (n=20) over 4 weeks. All participants were described as 'healthy' with "no reported cardiac, renal, or hepatic conditions, no allergies or intolerance to lactose or gluten, no prescribed medication or drug use, and who reported to consume no more than 3–5 alcohol units per week participated in the study." They were also all non-smokers. Also: "No information was provided about the different types of intervention (probiotics vs. placebo) or about the hypotheses concerning the outcome of the experiment." Mood and "dysfunctional thoughts" were assessed pre- and post intervention/placebo using the Leiden Index of Depression Sensitivity (LEIDS-r), the Beck Depression Inventory II (BDI-II) and the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI) and off they went.Results: bearing in mind that "cognitive reactivity is an important vulnerability marker of depression", authors reported that "a 4-week multispecies probiotic intervention reduced self-reported cognitive reactivity to sad mood, as indexed by the LEIDS-r." Specifically, scores on the rumination and aggression scales seemed to be most positively affected "indicating that in the probiotics supplementation condition participants perceived themselves to be less distracted by aggressive and ruminative thoughts when in a sad mood." Various other parameters also seemed to be affected by probiotic administration but these did not reach statistical significance.Just before however you rush out to buy a probiotic with the hope that your mood might be lifted and your ruminating somehow quashed, there are a few important caveats to note about the Steenbergen findings. First and foremost is their quite small participant group who were self-reporting. Self-report is a good tool when it comes to analysing a person's psychology, thoughts and feelings but is very dependent on the schedule used and how it 'grades' something like rumination or aggression. Normally, these are done in the form of statements and a Likert scale. The Steenbergen study did not rely on other 'objective' measurements.Second: "we did not include dietary measures and did not control for consumption of other probiotic products or fermented foods (e.g., yogurt)." From that point of view, we don't know whether simple dietary changes might also have exerted some effect on the results obtained. Indeed, whether illness or even natural biology - "Female participants were not controlled for the menstrual cycle" - might also have affected results bearing in mind that most participants were female.Finally is the issue of compliance and the lack of objective data on who actually stuck to the 4-week regime and how rigidly. By saying all this, I'm not trying to poo-poo the results, just highlighting limitations.Still with those caveats in mind, the Steenbergen results are a potentially important addition to the idea that gut bacteria might have some interesting effect on psychology (psychobacteriomics as I like to call it) as per the recent JAMA review [4]. Whether there may be wider implications for the current results, perhaps overlapping with other research suggestions about probiotic administration and psychology/behaviour (see here) remains to be seen. Further inspection of the potential mechanisms of effect including the gut microbiota as part of the triad of gut barrier function and gut immunity are also indicated bearing in mind previous data on something like depression and the inner workings of the gut (see here).Oh, and I'll be coming to the paper by Lisa Christian et al [5] on gut bacteria and toddler temperament quite soon...Music: LunchMoney Lewis - Bills.----------[1] Steenbergen L. et al. A randomized controlled trial to test the effect of multispecies probiotics on cognitive reactivity to sad mood. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. 2015. April 7.[2] Magnúsdóttir S. et al. Systematic genome assessment of B-vitamin biosynthesis suggests co-operation among gut microbes. Front Genet. 2015 Apr 20;6:148.[3] Van Hemert S. & Ormel G. Influence of the Multispecies Probiotic Ecologic® BARRIER on Parameters of Intestinal Barrier Function. FNS. 2014; 5: 1739-1745.[4] Friedrich MJ. Unraveling the Influence of Gut Microbes on the Mind. JAMA. 2015; 313: 1699-1701.[5] Christian LM. et al. Gut microbiome composition is associated with temperament during early childhood. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. 2015; 45: 118-127.----------... Read more »

  • May 28, 2015
  • 05:01 PM
  • 49 views

Why does humanity get smarter and smarter?

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

Intelligence tests have to be adjusted all the time because people score higher and higher. If the average human of today went 105 years back in time, s/he would score 130, be considered as gifted, and join clubs for highly intelligent people. How can that be? The IQ growth The picture above shows the development […]... Read more »

Pietschnig J, & Voracek M. (2015) One Century of Global IQ Gains: A Formal Meta-Analysis of the Flynn Effect (1909-2013). Perspectives on psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, 10(3), 282-306. PMID: 25987509  

  • May 28, 2015
  • 05:10 AM
  • 56 views

Our jumpiness at nighttime is not just because it's dark

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

When something goes bump in the night, most of us are little jumpier than we would be in the day. But is that just because it's dark, or is it more to do with our bodies and brains switching to a vigilant nocturnal mode?Yadan Li and her colleagues have attempted to disentangle the influences of darkness and nighttime. They recruited 120 young women to complete a computer task in a windowless cubicle, which involved them looking at neutral pictures (e.g. nature scenes), scary pictures (e.g. spiders; a person being attacked), and listening to scary sounds (e.g. screams) and neutral sounds (e.g. bird song).The women were split into four groups: some of them completed the task in the day-time with bright lights on; some in the day-time in darkness; others at night-time with a dim light on; and others at night-time in complete darkness (although presumably the computer screen created some light).The women who completed the task at nighttime said they found the scary pictures and sounds more scary (than the women tested in the day-time), and this was true regardless of whether they were tested in darkness or light. Moreover, their extra jumpiness was confirmed by recordings taken of their heart-rate and perspiration.In contrast, the time of testing made no difference to the women's responses to the neutral pictures and sounds. Also, the lighting levels, whether in the day-time or at nighttime, made no difference to the women's reactions to the neutral or scary stimuli.In other words, the findings appear to suggest that we're more sensitive to threats at nighttime because it's the night, not because it's dark. This raises the possibility that biological factors associated with our circadian rhythm affect our fear-sensitivity, although it's plausible that cultural factors are involved, in that we've learned to be more vigilant at night.The day-time testing took place at 8.00am and the nighttime testing at 8.00pm (in February, so it was dark outside) – it remains to be seen whether and how the findings might vary at different times of day and night. We also don't know if the same findings would apply to male participants, or participants from different cultures or stages of life (the study was conducted in China where the authors are based, and the student participants had an average age of 22 years).Li and her colleagues hope their findings will inspire other researchers to explore this topic. "[T]his study is merely a first step in understanding the underlying mechanisms involved in fear-related information processing and has implications for the underlying psychopathology of relevant phobias and anxiety disorders [such as nighttime panic attacks]," they said._________________________________ Li, Y., Ma, W., Kang, Q., Qiao, L., Tang, D., Qiu, J., Zhang, Q., & Li, H. (2015). Night or darkness, which intensifies the feeling of fear? International Journal of Psychophysiology DOI: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2015.04.021 Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

... Read more »

Li, Y., Ma, W., Kang, Q., Qiao, L., Tang, D., Qiu, J., Zhang, Q., & Li, H. (2015) Night or darkness, which intensifies the feeling of fear?. International Journal of Psychophysiology. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2015.04.021  

  • May 28, 2015
  • 03:28 AM
  • 57 views

The autisms, case reports and two 'intervention' options

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I'm looking at two papers today which I'd like to think cover the title of this post pretty well dealing with the plurality of autism - the autisms - and the idea that intervention or management-wise, there is no 'one size fits all' when it comes to the autisms.First up are the findings reported by Ziats and colleagues [1] who presented results for a child - "A 4-year-old male with autism and two episodes of neurodevelopmental regression" - who was also found to have a "mutation in the TMLHE gene, which encodes the first enzyme in the carnitine biosynthesis pathway, and concurrent carnitine deficiency." Supplementation with carnitine (see here) seemed to lead to some interesting changes in the developmental profile for this boy such that: "the patient's regression ended, and the boy started gaining developmental milestones."Accepting that this was another example of the N=1 and autism (see here) I was rather interested in these results having previously blogged about issues with the TMLHE (trimethyllysine hydroxylase) gene in relation to autism (see here). The source of that previous post was the paper from Patricia Celestino-Soper and colleagues [2] (open-access) who concluded that: "TMLHE deficiency is a risk factor for autism" and quite a bit more should be done to screen for such issues. I wouldn't disagree with those sentiments (see here).Next up are the results reported by Serret and colleagues [3] (open-access) who presented findings based on two participants "diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders in childhood and presented regression with catatonia features and behavioural disorders after a stressful event during adolescence." Further: "both patients presented mutation/microdeletion of the SHANK3 gene, inducing a premature stop codon in exon 21." Issues with SHANK3 have been reported in relation to autism previously.Authors reported that: "lithium therapy reversed clinical regression, stabilized behavioural symptoms and allowed patients to recover their pre-catatonia level of functioning, without significant side effects." Further: "These cases support the hypothesis of a specific SHANK3 phenotype" and that lithium might hold some favour in improving clinical presentation in those cases.Again, I was interested in the Serret findings with the caveat about their also using the case study approach in their paper. Lithium is an interesting compound that has graced this blog a few times in relation to its potential 'anti-suicide' correlating properties (see here) and as a possible management tool when it comes to the presentation of mood disorders comorbid to a diagnosis of autism (see here). Accepting that lithium has its own potential side-effects profile, the idea that cost-benefits might be calculated and if so deemed more benefit and less cost subsequently applied to 'some' autism, is an interesting prospect.Reiterating my opening paragraph, what the Ziats and Serret papers serve to tell us is that within 'the autisms' there may be many different roads to a diagnosis of autism and that under the diagnostic label of 'autism', genetics, biochemistry and subsequent intervention/management strategies may vary from person to person. As I've said before, receipt of a diagnosis of autism (when it is eventually received) should be a starting point for further inquiry not the 'finishing line'.That comorbidity - if I can still call it that - might also be a 'target' for analysis and investigation is also an important point raised and further asks more questions about the value of intervening on said comorbidity and the possible knock-on effects on the presentation of more core autism symptoms (see here). Y'know something like what is emerging in the body of research looking at anxiety and autism (see here).With the body of work linking this, that and t'other to autism I'm starting to think that some further resources might be needed to pull all the available peer-reviewed information together in terms of what factors have been linked to those 'autisms'. I've always been very partial to autism research looking at inborn errors of metabolism (IEMs) as a starting point for investigations (see here) given both the data on overlap and even the idea that some of the various interventions for specific IEMs might hold promise for 'some' autism (see here). Analysis of things like rare genetic variations also being linked to the appearance of autism (see here) ties into the IEM investigations and perhaps represents the next tier of evaluation, bearing in mind the reduced costs of things like whole genome sequencing these days set within the perspective of personalised medicine (see here). Environment, bearing in mind the range of factors this might cover, should also be included in any diagnostic work-up based on the evolving science connecting something like infection to autism onset for some (see here and see here). There are various tests that could be performed covering a whole slew of potential infective agents (see here).This is just a rough-and-ready idea of where autism research and practice could go with this but much like the pathways to diagnosing and managing bowel issues when comorbid to autism for example (see here), a general diagnostic roadmap is perhaps indicated...Music: Years & Years - King.----------[1] Ziats MN. et al. Improvement of regressive autism symptoms in a child with TMLHE deficiency following carnitine supplementation. Am J Med Genet A. 2015 May 5.[2] Celestino-Soper PB. et al. A common X-linked inborn error of carnitine biosynthesis may be a risk factor for nondysmorphic autism. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 May 22;109(21):7974-81.[3] Serret S. et al. Lithium as a rescue therapy for regression and catatonia features in two SHANK3 patients with autism spectrum disorder: case reports. B... Read more »

  • May 27, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 53 views

Where Do People Get Information About Dog Training?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Can people be blamed for dog training mistakes when there is so much erroneous information out there?Recently I saw a man walking a German Shepherd. Even from a distance it was clear the dog was nervous: his posture was low to the ground and the way he was walking made me wonder what kind of equipment he was on. As I waited at the traffic lights, I got a chance to see: a prong collar, tight, positioned high on his neck.There are easy alternatives, the simplest being a no-pull harness. I began to wonder: did the man not know there were other approaches? Did he not want to invest time in training loose-leash walking? Or did he think it looks good to have a big dog on a prong collar?While I don’t know his line of reasoning, we do know something about sources of training information. A recent survey of canine behavioural problems by Pirrone et al (2015) in Italy included a question about where people got information on dog training. 55% of respondents gave the answer, ‘myself’. This was broken down into two groups: 13% of dog owners who got their information ‘instinctively’, and 42% who got it from the web, TV or a book.The internet is a great source of both information and misinformation about dog training and animal behaviour. The same applies to TV shows and books, some of which are wonderful and others not so much. It’s hard for readers and viewers to separate fact from fiction, especially when there is so much conflicting advice.The other interesting thing to note about this answer, ‘myself’, is that it suggests most people do not discuss their dog’s behaviour with others, whether that is friends, family or vets. (In fact only 0.5% reported asking other dog owners).35% of people said they got information from a dog trainer, and 6% from a veterinarian. So are they safe if they ask a dog trainer? Sadly there are no standards in dog training, so responses could vary from dire to excellent. It’s not a surprise that vets came low on the list, as a study by Roshier and McBride found vets can miss opportunities to discuss behaviour problems with their clients, and many clients think this isn’t an appropriate topic for the vet.An earlier study by Herron, Shofer and Reisner included questions about people’s source of information for particular techniques and also found ‘self’ rated highly. Looking specifically at choke and prong collars, however, 66% said it was recommended by a trainer, while 21% credited themselves and 15% a friend or relative with the idea. In fact this was the second most common piece of advice to be credited to a trainer, after forcing the dog down with a leash at 70%. Both of these methods were categorized as "direct confrontation" by the authors. (More positively, the reward-based techniques of clicker training and teaching ‘look’ or ‘watch me’ were third on the list as trainer-recommendations). So is it lack of knowledge that causes people to use aversive training techniques? An Australian survey by Branson, Cobb and McGreevy found that only 6% of trainers of working dogs have a formal certification and 52% have no training at all. In other words, half of the trainers who responded to the survey do not even have on-the-job training. These are people training dogs for a range of law enforcement, protection, customs, search-and-rescue, farming, sports, and service roles. The same survey found the use of correction and electric shock collars was far more common amongst those with no training certification. Those with better education levels were more likely to use positive reinforcement. Learning theory is a dog trainer’s bread and butter – or at least it should be. How can you do a good job of training without an understanding of how dogs learn?Another issue is that people may genuinely not realize when their dog is stressed. Wan et al found experience with dogs is an important factor in people’s ability to recognize fear. When Deldalle and Gaunet compared the effects of positive reinforcement versus negative reinforcement (which uses aversives), they found dogs in the latter group were more stressed and looked less at their owners. The signs of stress included lowered body posture, lip-licking, and yawning. These could be missed by people who don't know what to look for.Which brings us back to the beautiful German Shepherd that was showing all three of these signs. There is a real need for better education about dog training. Without it, people will continue to use out-dated, inappropriate and even dangerous methods. If you’re looking for a dog trainer, here are some questions to ask, as considered by three excellent trainers: Maureen Backman, Lori Nanan and Helen Verte.The good news is that the push for humane training methods is gaining momentum. References:Branson, N., Cobb, M., & McGreevy, P. (2009). Australian Working Dog Survey Report Australian Animal Welfare StrategyDeldalle, S., & Gaunet, F. (2014). Effects of two training methods on stress-related behaviors of the dog Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 9 (2), 58-65 : http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2013.11.004... Read more »

Branson, N., Cobb, M., & McGreevy, P. (2009) Australian Working Dog Survey Report. Australian Animal Welfare Strategy. info:/

Deldalle, S., & Gaunet, F. (2014) Effects of two training methods on stress-related behaviors of the dog. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 9(2), 58-65. info:/http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2013.11.004

  • May 27, 2015
  • 07:02 AM
  • 55 views

The NoMoPhobia Scale (NMP-Q): What  happens when you are without your smartphone

by Rita Handrich in The Jury Room

The smartphone has changed our lives. Just last fall, we wrote about the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) Scale. As a reminder, that post was about how smartphones allow us to obsessively check our email and social media sites to see what our friends and followers and family members are doing— out of a fear […]

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  • May 27, 2015
  • 04:36 AM
  • 20 views

Help me out – but hands off! How idea territoriality harms creative team work

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

If you want quality feedback on your creative ideas, don't be too possessive about themPatents, citations, and copyright all indicate how much it matters to people that they can claim an idea as their own. But new research suggests that staking a claim during the early stages of idea development can be counterproductive, as it cools the enthusiasm others have for making it better.Graham Brown and Markus Baer asked their participants – 230 students at a Singaporean university – to provide feedback on a proposal on how to best promote a restaurant. Under one “hands off” condition, the covering letter for the proposal mentioned that “although I am asking you for your input, I consider this to be my proposal, not yours.” Participants who read this provided significantly less creative input, giving mundane and straightforward comments compared to those who hadn’t  read such a statement. They also gained less pleasure out of the feedback activity; it seemed as if they simply disengaged when they didn’t feel they could have any ownership or role in the direction of the idea.In a second experiment with American students, Brown and Baer found that the effect was particularly strong when the participants asked to give feedback were also primed to think of themselves as independent people (they were told they stood out from others and how this is beneficial). When you feel independent-minded you want to make your own unique impact on the world, not be a cog in a larger wheel.In contrast, priming participants to feel interdependent by describing how and why they fit in to society led to the opposite effect: they made better contributions in the ‘hands-off’ condition. An interdependent mindset prefers accord over dissent, making critical feedback an uncomfortable act, and the authors speculate that this discomfort is less when it’s apparent that any collaboration is going to be transient.That is a sliver of good news, but this isn’t a desirable trade-off. Independent minded people are more disposed to provide challenging ideas that stand out from the norm, which means we want to encourage these people to get stuck in. If we are truly committed to the success of our vision, we may need to let it fly free in its infancy, and trust that credit will come to those who do the heavy lifting of helping ideas become reality._________________________________ Brown G, & Baer M (2015). Protecting the Turf: The Effect of Territorial Marking on Others' Creativity. The Journal of applied psychology PMID: 25938721 Post written by Alex Fradera (@alexfradera) for the BPS Research Digest.

... Read more »

  • May 27, 2015
  • 03:08 AM
  • 42 views

Predicting the onset of schizophrenia?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"A lower level of inflammatory response indicated by PTX3 [pentraxin-3] might be implicated in developing schizophrenia."That was the primary conclusion reported by Natalya Weber and colleagues [1] (open-access here) who "tested preonset serum specimens from 160 US military service members who were later diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder and 160 matched controls without psychiatric disorders."PTX-3 by the way, is a compound of some note when it comes to the concept of inflammation, residing in the same family as a better known inflammatory-related compound, C-reactive protein (CRP) (see here). The difference between CRP and PTX-3 seems to be down to CRP being a 'short' pentraxin and PTX-3 being a 'long' one.Weber et al assessed levels of PTX-3 in "first available serum specimens" of 160 military personnel who were "later diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder" (n=80 respectively) and compared them with 160 matched controls. As per other work by authors on the Weber paper [2], using military cohorts has some significant advantages when it comes to potential biomarker work in this area (see here). They reported that: "PTX3 levels among subjects with schizophrenia were significantly lower... than the levels among their paired controls" thus indicating that prior to the onset of schizophrenia, PTX-3 levels might be something to watch for risk of developing the condition. The authors even went as far as to say that: "a level of PTX3 below the median (0.6 ng/ml) was associated with an OR [odds ratio] of 3.0 (CI, 1.6–5.7)" when it came to risk of subsequent schizophrenia.This is interesting data which, as the authors point out, is strengthened by "including the follow-up of an initially disease-free population with subsequent complete and reliable case/control ascertainment" alongside the collection of biological samples "years before disease onset". Military personnel are screened and screened over their time serving, thus making this population about as valuable to research as all those archived newborn bloodspot cards that I'm so interested in (see here). The authors do caution that their results may not be entirely generalisable to the population at large as a result of their 'captive audience' (how many civvies spend their days like military personnel?) but the strengths of the study perhaps outweigh the limitations.The idea that the immune system and the orchestration of its arsenal of compounds might be perturbed when it comes to a behavioural/psychiatric condition like schizophrenia is by no means a new idea (see here for example). That being said, science is still fumbling around trying to make sense of the idea that immune function / inflammation might impact on something like schizophrenia and the specific hows and whys of the relationship. Weber et al do speculate on what their results might mean as per comments that: "Long-lasting or temporal lack of PTX3 could potentially impact pathogen recognition, activation, and orientation of the adaptive immune response and/or antibody production." Further: "Impairment of any of these functions, particularly those where PTX3 plays its unique role, could lead to a vulnerability to the neurotropic pathogens associated with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder." Part of those 'neurotropic pathogens' must surely include the body of work referring to a possible role for Toxoplasma gondii in relation to some schizophrenia (see here).Interestingly also the authors talk about how their findings might relate to the issue of autoimmunity and how their findings might be contributory to immune system "derailment into a dysregulated state of autoimmune activation and damage." As per my discussions on autism and autoimmunity (see here for example) I do think there is a lot more to see in this particular area with schizophrenia also in mind (see here), perhaps also mediated by some interesting connections to the human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) among other things. And yes, before you ask, HERVs have been implicated in cases of schizophrenia and perhaps even with the words 'molecularly mimicry' and 'superantigen' in mind [3].More research in this area please.Music: Björk - Hyperballad.----------[1] Weber NS. et al. Predictors of the Onset of Schizophrenia in US Military Personnel. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2015 May;203(5):319-24.[2] Niebuhr DW. et al. Association between bovine casein antibody and new onset schizophrenia among US military personnel. Schizophr Res. 2011 May;128(1-3):51-5.[3] Brodziak A. et al. The role of human endogenous retroviruses in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases. Med Sci Monit. 2012 Jun;18(6):RA80-8.----------Weber NS, Larsen RA, Yolken RH, Cowan DN, Boivin MR, & Niebuhr DW (2015). Predictors of the Onset of Schizophrenia in US Military Personnel. The Journal of nervous and mental disease, 203 (5), 319-24 PMID: 25919381... Read more »

Weber NS, Larsen RA, Yolken RH, Cowan DN, Boivin MR, & Niebuhr DW. (2015) Predictors of the Onset of Schizophrenia in US Military Personnel. The Journal of nervous and mental disease, 203(5), 319-24. PMID: 25919381  

  • May 26, 2015
  • 01:38 PM
  • 46 views

Babies can think before they can speak

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Two pennies can be considered the same — both are pennies, just as two elephants can be considered the same, as both are elephants. Despite the vast difference between pennies and elephants, we easily notice the common relation of sameness that holds for both pairs. Analogical ability — the ability to see common relations between objects, events or ideas — is a key skill that underlies human intelligence and differentiates humans from other apes.... Read more »

  • May 26, 2015
  • 01:30 PM
  • 36 views

Researchers find essential fats for brain growth

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

New research has proved that certain special fats found in blood are essential for human brain growth and function. The two studies showed that mutations in the protein Mfsd2a causes impaired brain development in humans. Mfsd2a is the transporter in the brain for a special type of fat called lysophosphatidylcholines (LPCs) — composed of essential fatty acids like omega-3. These studies show, for the first time, the crucial role of these fats in human brain growth and function.... Read more »

  • May 26, 2015
  • 05:08 AM
  • 43 views

Health and adults on the autism spectrum

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Nearly all medical conditions were significantly more common in adults with autism, including immune conditions, gastrointestinal and sleep disorders, seizure, obesity, dyslipidemia, hypertension, and diabetes."So said the study results from Lisa Croen and colleagues [1] who set out to "describe the frequency of psychiatric and medical conditions among a large, diverse, insured population of adults with autism in the United States." Said participant group was derived from the interrogation of data from Kaiser Permanente Northern California and included over 1500 adults with autism compared against 15,000 non-autistic controls. Diagnosis of autism, by the way, was via ICD-9 codes - "299.0, 299.8, 299.9" - that had to be mentioned at least twice in participants' medical records.Alongside the over-representation of various medical conditions in participants diagnosed with autism, researchers also reported that: "Adults with autism had significantly increased rates of all major psychiatric disorders including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, and suicide attempts." They concluded: "Future research is needed to understand the social, healthcare access, and biological factors underlying these observations."For many people either on the autism spectrum or interested in autism these data are not likely to be new news. That a diagnosis of autism might place someone at some heightened risk of both medical and psychiatric / behavioural comorbidity has been covered extensively on this blog (see here) with more data being published almost daily [2]. If there is some novelty allied to the Croen results, it is the shift to focusing on adult presentation and not just the descriptions of children on the autism spectrum. The additional idea that 'healthcare access' for example, might be something requiring a little more thought as a function of such results is something that has also been recently explored (see here).As per other discussions about how 'optimal outcome' might not necessarily mean 'symptom-free' (see here) and the realisation that various comorbidity might be profoundly 'disabling' for quite a few people on the autism spectrum (see here), so the pace picks up on the notion that 'the label of autism does not appear in a diagnostic vacuum'...Music: The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy - Television, the Drug of the Nation.----------[1] Croen LA. et al. The health status of adults on the autism spectrum. Autism. 2015 Apr 24. pii: 1362361315577517.[2] de Vinck-Baroody O. et al. Overweight and Obesity in a Sample of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder. Acad Pediatr. 2015 Apr 30. pii: S1876-2859(15)00079-0.----------Croen LA, Zerbo O, Qian Y, Massolo ML, Rich S, Sidney S, & Kripke C (2015). The health status of adults on the autism spectrum. Autism : the international journal of research and practice PMID: 25911091... Read more »

Croen LA, Zerbo O, Qian Y, Massolo ML, Rich S, Sidney S, & Kripke C. (2015) The health status of adults on the autism spectrum. Autism : the international journal of research and practice. PMID: 25911091  

  • May 26, 2015
  • 04:26 AM
  • 9 views

Happy people have more children

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Lots of research, much of it contradictory, has looked into whether having children brings happiness. There are studies showing marital satisfaction plummets after the kids arrive, but there's other evidence that the bundles of joy really do bring ... joy. A new study turns all this on its head and asks whether being happier makes it more likely that people will have children.Jinhyung Kim and Joshua Hicks first analysed data collected from 559 US lawyers. In 1984, the law men and women rated their life satisfaction and reported whether they had any children, and then in 1990 they were contacted again and said how many kids they now had. Lawyers who were happier in 1984 had more children in 1990, even after accounting for their income, age, gender and number of children when they were first contacted.Of course lawyers are not entirely like the rest of us, so a more valid follow-up study was needed. This time the researchers analysed data collected from nearly 5000 people across the US in 1995-96 and then again between 2004 and 2006. Once more the data showed that people who reported more happiness at the first time point tended to have more children at the second time point.This second survey also had the advantage that it looked at different forms of happiness. Life satisfaction, more positive emotions, and more purpose and meaning in life were all independently associated with having more children, even after accounting for other factors like income, age and gender.Kim and Hicks said: "The current studies suggest that children may not only serve as a source of happiness, but happiness itself is linked to future reproduction." The routes by which happiness might encourage procreation remain unknown and are likely manifold and complex. Speculating about the role of hedonic happiness specifically, the researchers said: "... people in a positive affective state may use the feeling as information that they are currently satisfied, motivating them to explore new opportunities such as childrearing."It's also likely that relationship status plays a big part in the link between happiness and having more children. Happier people are more likely to form new, and sustain existing, relationships, which obviously makes it easier to have kids. Indeed, in the second survey, the statistical link between past happiness and future children disappeared once relationship status at the second time point was taken into account.Another detail: the relationship between past happiness and later number of children was weaker for people who already had at least one child. The researchers wondered if this is because "... realistic issues associated with parenting override the effect of cognitive well-being and optimism on the willingness to have additional children."It's important to note that we are talking about subtle associations here. For instance, in the second survey, life satisfaction at the first time point only explained 0.001 per cent of the variance in number of children at the second time point. This might sound derisory, but remember this was after taking into account other powerful factors such as income. The researchers said the small effect sizes are to be expected "considering the number of variables that influence the probability of having a child." But to be sure, they added: "... clearly happiness does not account for all of the variance associated with parenthood."_________________________________ Kim, J., & Hicks, J. (2015). Happiness begets children? Evidence for a bi-directional link between well-being and number of children The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1-8 DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2015.1025420 Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

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  • May 25, 2015
  • 01:40 PM
  • 53 views

Echoborgs: Psychologists Bring You Face To Face With A Chat-bot

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Last year I blogged about the creepy phenomenon of cyranoids. A cyranoid is a person who speaks the words of another person. With the help of a hidden earpiece, a 'source' whispers words into the ear of a 'shadower' , who repeats them. In research published last year, British psychologists Kevin Corti and Alex Gillespie showed that cyranoids are hard to spot: if you were speaking to one, you probably wouldn't know it, even if the source was an adult and the shadower a child, or vice versa.


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  • May 25, 2015
  • 07:02 AM
  • 64 views

I want to believe some psychopaths have feelings 

by Doug Keene in The Jury Room

Most of us find the behavior of the true psychopath frightening enough that we have few issues with locking them up and throwing away the key. They seem so very different from us and hearing the facts of their behavior is frightening and leaves us feeling unsafe. If you are not afraid of the psychopath, […]

Related posts:
 Psychopaths cannot understand punishment—what does that mean for the courtroom?
Judges are biased in favor of psychopaths whose “brains made them do it”
Is this a new treatment for adult criminal psychopaths? 


... Read more »

  • May 25, 2015
  • 02:42 AM
  • 57 views

Ginkgo biloba for ADHD?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I approach the paper by Fereshteh Shakibaei and colleagues [1] with some degree of caution save any suggestions that I am somehow 'promoting' the herb Ginkgo biloba for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or anything else. I'm not, but I am interested in the results of their placebo-controlled trial suggesting that "The G. biloba is an effective complementary treatment for ADHD" and their subsequent calls for further research into this potentially promising intervention.As per the Medline Plus entry for Ginko biloba, irrespective of your views on herbal remedies and health (have you never heard of pharmacognosy?), there is a growing evidence base suggesting that such a preparation might have a place in the management of quite a few conditions/diagnoses. The caveat being that (a) quite a bit more research is needed, and (b) much like more mainstream pharmaceutics, such herbs are not without their contraindications when it comes to their use alongside other medicines. Treat your herbs et al like you would your typical medicines is the best advice, bearing in mind I don't give medical or clinical advice on this blog.Shakibaei et al reported results looking at a group of children/adolescents over 6 weeks already in receipt of pharmacotherapy for their ADHD symptoms - "methylphenidate (20-30 mg/day" - to which either G. biloba was added - "80-120 mg/day" - or a placebo. They report that based on responses to the "Parent and teacher forms of the ADHD Rating Scale-IV (ADHD-RS-IV)" (something I've come across in my own research) compared with the placebo group "more reduction was observed with G. biloba" illustrative of potential positive changes to symptoms. The specific area of 'inattention' seemed to be positively affected by the use of G. biloba. The commonplace 'further studies are required' sentence completes the Shakibaei results.This is not the first times that G. biloba has been discussed in the peer-reviewed domain with ADHD in mind (see here). As per the 2009 review from Rucklidge and colleagues [2] (someone who knows a thing or two about supplements and ADHD) the jury is still out about G. biloba and it's possible effect with ADHD mind. Certainly, there are quite a few other candidate 'nutrient supplements' which seem to be performing quite a bit better than this herb (see here and see here for example).That being said, I'd be interested to see what future research has to say about the usefulness of G. biloba with ADHD in mind, specifically from the angle of an adjuvant (add-on) treatment alongside more traditional pharmacotherapy. Again, I say this without in any way, shape or form 'promoting' such use at the current time and with the understanding that management of ADHD is likely to require quite a holistic approach.Music: The Foo Fighters (who should be at the SoL anytime.... now).----------[1] Shakibaei F. et al. Ginkgo biloba in the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents. A randomized, placebo-controlled, trial. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2015 Apr 18. pii: S1744-3881(15)00029-8.[2] Rucklidge JJ. et al. Nutrient supplementation approaches in the treatment of ADHD. Expert Rev Neurother. 2009 Apr;9(4):461-76.----------Shakibaei F, Radmanesh M, Salari E, & Mahaki B (2015). Ginkgo biloba in the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents. A randomized, placebo-controlled, trial. Complementary therapies in clinical practice PMID: 25925875... Read more »

  • May 24, 2015
  • 06:19 PM
  • 59 views

When medication side effects get in the way of living life

by Bronwyn Thompson in Healthskills: Skills for Healthy Living

There are very few people living with chronic pain who gleefully swallow a handful of pills and skip happily off for the day feeling chipper and bright as a button. For the most part, people living with chronic pain don’t seem to enjoy the need to take medications – I’ve heard some say they’re worried about “not being able to tell whether I’m doing damage” when they can’t feel their pain, others say they don’t think medications are very helpful, while still others complain about rattling when they walk. But by far the biggest complaint is the medications for chronic pain have unpleasant side effects – side effects so bad that for some people, it’s just not worth taking the pills at all.... Read more »

  • May 23, 2015
  • 03:59 PM
  • 77 views

Omega-3 as an intervention for childhood behavioral problems

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

We don’t usually think of a child’s behavior as a diet issue, but if new findings hold true, then that might be the very case. In a new study, researchers suggest that omega-3, a fatty acid commonly found in fish oil, may have long-term neurodevelopmental effects that ultimately reduce antisocial and aggressive behavior problems in children.... Read more »

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