Podcast listeners may be more open-minded
<p>Are you a big podcast listener? A <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0265806" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">new study</a> suggests that you may be more open-minded and intellectually curious than people who don’t listen to podcasts.</p> <p>Podcasts have become increasingly popular in recent years, with a reported 75.9 million podcast listeners in the US and 15.61 million in the UK as of 2020. Yet comparatively little research exists on how and why people listen to this type of on-demand audio content.</p> <p>“I mainly study social media use, but am an avid podcast listener,” explains Stephanie Tobin, a senior lecturer in psychology at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and first author on the new study.</p> <p>Tobin’s own favourite podcasts include <a href="https://www.fourbeers.com/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Two Psychologists Four Beers</a>, <a href="https://www.verybadwizards.com/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Very Bad Wizards</a>, <a href="https://www.chat10looks3.com/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Chat 10 Looks 3</a>, and <a href="https://myfavoritemurder.com/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">My Favorite Murder</a>.</p> <p>“I was interested in applying the same methods we use to understand why people use social media to understand why people listen to podcasts,” she says.</p> <p>Together with co-author Rosanna Guadagno of Stanford University in the United States, Tobin surveyed a sample of around 300 people from several different countries about their podcast listening habits. The participants also completed the Big Five Inventory, a validated questionnaire designed to measure <a href="https://www.thoughtco.com/big-five-personality-traits-4176097" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">key personality traits</a>.</p> <p>“We found that people who were more open to experience, more curious, and who enjoyed thinking more were more likely to have listened to a podcast,” Tobin says.</p> <p>This fits with earlier research showing that these traits are associated with use of new technologies and using online platforms to find information.</p> <p>On the other hand, participants who scored higher on their need to belong were less likely to be podcast listeners. This was surprising to Tobin, who had expected the opposite relationship.</p> <p>Nevertheless, podcast listeners who spent more hours per week listening were more socially engaged with the podcasts they listened to, and experienced stronger parasocial (one-sided) relationships with podcast hosts.</p> <p>“I’d be interested to follow up on the social aspects, perhaps by looking at the online communities that form around specific podcasts,” says Tobin.</p> <p>This article originally appeared in <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/people/social-sciences/podcast-listener-personality/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cosmos Magazine</a>. </p> <p><em>Image: Getty</em></p>
The mental health toll of Covid-19 lockdowns
<p dir="ltr">During 2021, most people around the world were subject to a period of lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19. </p> <p dir="ltr">With lockdowns in Australia lasting several months, the personal effects of these isolation periods are not to be underestimated. </p> <p dir="ltr">According to a new report by the <a href="https://www.nswmentalhealthcommission.com.au/">Mental Health Commission of NSW</a>, one in eight people have emerged from the pandemic with a new mental health condition.</p> <p dir="ltr">As a result, the nation-wide mental health system is facing immense pressure, with wait times for mental health specialists stretching to more than six months in some parts of New South Wales alone. </p> <p dir="ltr">NSW Mental Health Commissioner Catherine Lourey told the <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/lockdown-toll-one-in-eight-have-new-mental-health-condition-20220513-p5al4v.html?fbclid=IwAR0ARZsPxwdkWuRbZoEGRmgXCQM8EF3QjXASs50dTw6keMn2KAKHV0kxa7M">Sydney Morning Herald</a> that Australia will need to recruit from abroad to boost its depleted and exhausted mental health workforce, as demand far outweighs supply for services after two years of lockdowns and pandemic distress.</p> <p dir="ltr">Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show a dramatic 25 percent increase in those seeking mental health services compared to the same time pre-pandemic.</p> <p dir="ltr">“As demand on services rises, waiting lists for specialists are blowing out to more than six months, particularly in regional parts of NSW,” Lourey said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Our biggest obstacle is getting nurses and specialists on the ground now. We need intense focus on growing our existing workforce, re-training and looking overseas to recruit more psychologists, peer workers, social workers, nurses and counsellors,” Lourey said.</p> <p dir="ltr">A commission into the ongoing impact of the pandemic shows that the lockdowns of 2021 had a more detrimental effect on mental health than the first year of the pandemic. </p> <p dir="ltr">A survey of more than 2,000 NSW residents in November and December of 2021 found one in eight experienced a new mental health condition, the most common being anxiety and depression. </p> <p dir="ltr">People aged 18 to 29 were the most likely to experience a new mental health issue.</p> <p dir="ltr">Sixty-one percent said their mental health was negatively impacted by COVID-19 in 2021, up from 55 percent in 2020.</p> <p dir="ltr">Professor Ian Hickie, co-director of the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre, said the report indicated a need for ongoing support as the community realises Covid-19 will still cause disruption in their lives, even though lockdowns have ended.</p> <p dir="ltr">“2020 was bad, 2021 was worse, and 2022 could be at least better than last year, but we are not back to pre-pandemic yet,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We wouldn’t expect that until at least 2023, and that is assuming nothing else goes wrong.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>
What is mindfulness? Nobody really knows, and that’s a problem
<p>You’ve probably heard of mindfulness. These days, it’s everywhere, like many ideas and practices drawn from Buddhist texts that have become part of mainstream Western culture.</p> <p>But a review published today in the journal <a href="http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1745691617709589">Perspectives on Psychological Science</a> shows the hype is ahead of the evidence. Some <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23796855">reviews of studies</a> on mindfulness suggest it may help with psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, and stress. But it’s not clear what type of mindfulness or meditation we need and for what specific problem.</p> <p>The study, involving a large group of researchers, clinicians and meditators, found a clear-cut definition of mindfulness doesn’t exist. This has potentially serious implications. If vastly different treatments and practices are considered the same, then research evidence for one may be wrongly taken as support for another. </p> <p>At the same time, if we move the goalposts too far or in the wrong direction, we might lose the potential benefits of mindfulness altogether.</p> <h2>So, what is mindfulness?</h2> <p>Mindfulness receives a bewildering assortment of definitions. Psychologists <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs12671-012-0122-5">measure the concept</a> in differing combinations of acceptance, attentiveness, awareness, body focus, curiosity, nonjudgmental attitude, focus on the present, and others. </p> <p>It’s equally ill-defined as a set of practices. A brief exercise in self-reflection prompted by a smart-phone app on your daily commute may be considered the same as a months-long meditation retreat. Mindfulness can both refer to what Buddhist monks do and what your yoga instructor does for five minutes at the start and end of a class. </p> <p>To be clear, mindfulness and meditation are not the same thing. There are types of meditation that are mindful, but not all mindfulness involves meditation and not all meditation is mindfulness-based. </p> <p>Mindfulness mainly refers to the idea of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness">focusing on the present moment</a>, but it’s not quite that simple. It also refers to several forms of meditation practices that aim to develop skills of awareness of the world around you and of your behavioral patterns and habits. In truth, <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rcbh20/12/1">many disagree</a> about its actual purpose and what is and isn’t mindfulness.</p> <h2>What’s it for?</h2> <p>Mindfulness has been applied to just about any problem you can think up - from relationship issues, problems with alcohol or drugs, to enhancing leadership skills. It’s <a href="http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-05/athletes-use-meditation-and-mindfulness-to-give-them-edge/8326004">being used by sportsmen</a> to find “clarity” on and off the field and <a href="https://mindfulnessinschools.org/">mindfulness programs</a> are being offered at school. You can find it in <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com.au/search-inside-yourself-googles-life-changing-mindfulness-course-2014-8?r=US&IR=T">workplaces</a>, <a href="https://amavic.com.au/doctor-wellbeing/mindfulness-in-medicine">medical clinics</a>, and <a href="https://psychcentral.com/news/2017/02/22/mindfulness-shows-mixed-results-for-older-adults-well-being/116765.html">old age homes</a>.</p> <p>More than a few popular books have been written <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Why-Buddhism-True-Philosophy-Enlightenment/dp/1439195455">touting the benefits</a> of mindfulness and meditation. For example, in a supposedly critical review <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Altered-Traits-Science-Reveals-Meditation/dp/0399184384/ref=pd_sim_14_2?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=0399184384&pd_rd_r=W1WPPXCTWYZ2DB9XRRPY&pd_rd_w=Q6zJs&pd_rd_wg=1QvNB&psc=1&refRID=W1WPPXCTWYZ2DB9XRRPY">Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes your Mind, Brain and Body</a>, Daniel Goleman argues one of the four benefits of mindfulness is improved working memory. Yet, a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27580462">recent review</a> of about 18 studies exploring the effect of mindfulness-based therapies on attention and memory calls into question these ideas. </p> <p>Another common claim is that mindfulness reduces stress, for which there is <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24395196">limited evidence</a>. Other promises, such as improved mood and attention, better eating habits, improved sleep, and better weight control are not <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24395196">fully supported by the science</a> either. </p> <p>And while benefits have limited evidence, mindfulness and meditation can sometimes be <a href="http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0176239">harmful</a> and can lead to psychosis, mania, loss of personal identity, anxiety, panic, and re-experiencing traumatic memories. Experts have suggested mindfulness is <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12671-011-0079-9">not for everyone</a>, especially those suffering from several serious mental health problems such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. </p> <h2>Research on mindfulness</h2> <p>Another problem with mindfulness literature is that it often suffers from poor research methodology. Ways of measuring mindfulness are highly variable, assessing quite different phenomena while using the same label. This <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jclp.20580/abstract">lack of equivalence</a>among measures and individuals makes it challenging to generalise from one study to another.</p> <p>Mindfulness researchers rely too much on questionnaires, which require people to introspect and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22122674">report on mental states</a> that may be slippery and fleeting. These reports are notoriously vulnerable to biases. For example, people who aspire to mindfulness may report being mindful because they see it as desirable, not because they have actually achieved it.</p> <p>Only a <a href="http://psycnet.apa.org/record/2015-45553-002">tiny minority of attempts</a> to examine whether these treatments work compare them against another treatment that is known to work – which is the primary means by which clinical science can show added value of new treatments. And a minority of these studies are conducted in regular clinical practices rather than in specialist research contexts. </p> <p>A recent <a href="https://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?doi=10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13018">review of studies</a>, commissioned by the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, found many studies were too poorly conducted to include in the review and that mindfulness treatments were moderately effective, at best, for anxiety, depression, and pain. There was no evidence of efficacy for attention problems, positive mood, substance abuse, eating habits, sleep or weight control.</p> <h2>What should be done?</h2> <p>Mindfulness is definitely a useful concept and a <a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272735813000731">promising set of practices</a>. It may help <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25818837">prevent</a> psychological problems and could be useful as an addition to existing treatments. It <a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272735815000197">may also be helpful</a> for general mental functioning and well-being. But the promise will not be realised if problems are not addressed. </p> <p>The mindfulness community must agree to key features that are essential to mindfulness and researchers should be clear how their measures and practices include these. Media reports should be equally specific about what states of mind and practices mindfulness includes, rather than using it as a broad term.</p> <p>Mindfulness might be assessed, not through self-reporting, but in part using more objective <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2566754/">neurobiological</a> and behavioural measures, such as <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4208398/">breath counting</a>. This is where random tones could be used to “ask” participants if they are focused on the breath (press left button) or if their mind had wandered (press right button).</p> <p>Researchers studying the efficacy of mindfulness treatments should compare them to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence-based_practice">credible alternative treatments</a>, whenever possible. Development of new mindfulness approaches should be avoided until we know more about the ones we already have. Scientists and clinicians should use rigorous <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randomized_controlled_trial">randomised control trials</a> and work with researchers from outside the mindfulness tradition.</p> <p>And lastly, mindfulness researchers and practitioners should acknowledge the reality of occasional negative effects. Just as medications must declare potential side effects, so should mindfulness treatments. Researchers should systematically assess potential side effects when studying mindfulness treatments. Practitioners should be alert to them and not recommend mindfulness treatments as a first approach if safer ones with stronger evidence of efficacy are available.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-is-mindfulness-nobody-really-knows-and-thats-a-problem-83295" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
Why fake news and misinformation is sabotaging the election
<p dir="ltr">After a messy election campaign, a lot of Australians have been left feeling confused about who they should be voting for at the polls this weekend. </p> <p dir="ltr">With conflicting media reports about both Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese, it’s easy to get lost in what is the correct information. </p> <p dir="ltr">A recent report published by Avast, a global leader in digital security and privacy, has warned Australians to be wary of fake news and misinformation when casting their vote. </p> <p dir="ltr">The new research commissioned by Avast found that over half of Australians say they have believed a fake news story in the past, and a staggering 9 in 10 believe that fake news has the ability to impact Australians and their vote in the upcoming election. </p> <p dir="ltr">Stephen Kho, cyber security expert at Avast says, “Sensationalist fake news is often used to generate clicks onto a webpage to improve ad revenue. It has also been used to influence public thought…it’s increasingly important that Australians are aware of how to spot misinformation and misleading news that isn’t based in solid fact.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Concerningly, the research found that 38% of Australians are not confident in their ability to identify fake news online, as Stephen Kho recommends readers run through these three criteria when assessing a news source for misinformation.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Check the source</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Readers should question the source, ask themselves if they have ever heard of it, and assess the source's appearance. </p> <p dir="ltr">Readers should also research the source, to see what has been reported on the source and if the source has a vested interest in subjective reporting. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Check the headline</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Clickbait articles are designed to garner as many clicks as possible and often have very catchy headlines. </p> <p dir="ltr">It is therefore important for readers to question articles where the headline and the actual story have little or no connection, and short articles bringing little to no insights.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Check the publication date</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Readers should check the date of articles, regardless of if they are real or fake, to make sure they are reading the most current information.</p> <p dir="ltr">Stephen Kho also shared helpful tips on how to avoid fake news, and how to spot blatant misinformation.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Avoid relying on social media</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">While social media giants are making an effort to flag fake news shared within their networks, it's best to avoid consuming news and current affairs via social media news feeds.</p> <p dir="ltr">Instead, go directly to a news site you trust.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Read a variety of sources before forming an opinion</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Reading multiple, reliable news sources, can help people avoid fake news. If one article is reporting a story with different facts, the news could be fake.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>
Labels like ‘psycho’ or ‘schizo’ can hurt. We’ve workshopped alternative clinical terms
<p>It is common to hear people use stigmatising, discriminatory and hurtful labels such as “psycho”, “schizo” or “totally bipolar”. Others might minimise conditions by saying they too are “a bit OCD” because they value structure and organisation. </p> <p>This kind of <a href="https://bmchealthservres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-6963-7-97">everyday use of pseudo-clinical terms</a> can be upsetting for young people who are struggling with these conditions. Worse still, it can stop them seeking care.</p> <p>Clinical terms can have the same effect. For our <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S092099642100356X">recent research</a>, we worked with young patients, carers and clinicians to develop new mental health vocabulary that carries less stigma, but remains accurate.</p> <h2>Mental health labels have pros and cons</h2> <p>Labels can provide concise and understandable descriptions of clinical and theoretical ideas. Diagnoses enable patients and health professionals to follow evidence-based advice for effective care, because <a href="https://www.nice.org.uk/">best practice guidelines</a> are available for all labelled medical conditions.</p> <p>In other words, naming a condition is the first step towards identifying the best treatment available. Labels can also help create communities of individuals who share a similar clinical description, and reassure individuals they are not alone.</p> <p>On the other hand, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1925070/">labels</a> can result in <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/psychological-medicine/article/should-we-be-concerned-about-stigma-and-discrimination-in-people-at-risk-for-psychosis-a-systematic-review/0E3509EA0A8E19293077C2645D643350">stigma and discrimination</a>, poor engagement with services, increased anxiety and suicidal thoughts, and poorer mental health.</p> <p>The process of posing a diagnosis, may treat an individual’s strengths or their vulnerabilities as abnormalities and pathologise them. </p> <p>For example, a young person’s vivid imagination and artistic drive – strengths that allow them to produce wonderful artwork – might be recast as a sign of illness. Or their experience of growing up in poverty and disadvantage, could be seen as the cause of their mental illness, rather than environmental factors that may have merely contributed to it.</p> <p>As such, clinicians should seek to understand a person’s difficulties through a holistic, humanistic and psychological perspective, prior to giving them a label.</p> <h2>New terms, changing approaches</h2> <p>In the past decade, there have been efforts to <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/article/PIIS2215-0366(21)00478-8/fulltext">improve naming of psychiatric disorders</a>. Attempts to update psychiatric terms and make them more culturally appropriate and less stigmatising have resulted in renaming schizophrenia in several countries. </p> <p>Proposed terms such as <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1751-7893.2010.00203.x">Si Jue Shi Tiao</a> (thought and perceptual dysregulation) in Hong Kong, and <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS0140-6736(13)61776-6.pdf">Johyenonbyung</a> (attunement disorder) in South Korea, have been suggested as alternatives that carry less stigma and allow a more positive view of psychiatry. </p> <p>These new terms, however, were generated by experts in the field. Consumers and clients within the mental health system have rarely been consulted, until now.</p> <h2>Thoughts from those ‘at risk’</h2> <p>Currently, “ultra-high risk (for psychosis)”, “at-risk mental state” and “attenuated psychosis syndrome” are used to describe young people at elevated risk of developing psychosis. But these labels can be stigmatising and damaging for the young people who receive them. </p> <p>At Orygen, new, less stigmatising ways to describe the “risk for psychosis” concept <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S092099642100356X">were co-developed</a> with young people with lived experience of mental ill-health.</p> <p>During focus groups, former patients were asked how they would like their experiences to be termed if they were believed to be at risk for developing a mental illness.</p> <p>This discussion resulted in them generating new terms such as “pre-diagnosis stage”, “potential for developing a mental illness” and “disposition for developing a mental illness”.</p> <p>The terms were then presented to three groups: 46 young people identified as being at risk for psychosis and currently receiving care; 24 of their caregivers; and 52 clinicians caring for young people.</p> <p>Most thought these new terms were less stigmatising than the current ones. The new terms were still judged as informative and illustrative of young people’s experiences. </p> <p>Patients also told us they wanted terms like these to be fully disclosed and raised early in their care. This revealed a desire of transparency when dealing with mental ill-health and clinicians.</p> <h2>Names have power</h2> <p>Labels can, and should, be revisited when stigma becomes associated with them. </p> <p>Co-designing new diagnostic labels with patients, their carers and clinicians is empowering for all involved. Several similar projects are underway in <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0920996420301572">Italy</a> and <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/pcn.12423">Japan</a> to include a cultural perspective in renaming terms related to young people at risk of developing serious mental ill health. </p> <p>We hope to integrate and use more terms generated by young people in mainstream early intervention psychiatric services. We hope this will have a meaningful impact on young people’s mental health by allowing better access to care and less stigmatisation.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/labels-like-psycho-or-schizo-can-hurt-weve-workshopped-alternative-clinical-terms-179756" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
Doing these 9 things can cut your risk of dementia by 35 per cent – here’s why
<p><strong>Is dementia actually preventable?</strong></p> <p>Forgetfulness might seem like an unavoidable part of ageing, but you aren’t destined to dementia. In fact, there’s actually a lot you can do to prevent dementia. <em>A Lancet Commissions</em> report from 24 leading dementia researchers says 35 per cent of dementia comes from preventable causes.</p> <p>Follow these steps and you could ward off a condition affecting about 47 million people worldwide.</p> <p><strong>Keep learning</strong></p> <p>Adults who don’t have at least a secondary school degree are at higher risk for developing dementia, according to the report. This could be because more education usually means a higher socioeconomic status, but it could have to do with learning itself.</p> <p>“Cognitive resilience in later life is likely to be enhanced by building brain reserve earlier in life through education and other intellectual stimulation,” write the study authors.</p> <p><strong>Check your hearing</strong></p> <p>After age 55, hearing loss is associated with higher risk of dementia. It’s probably not a cause – older adults are already at generally higher risk for both dementia and hearing loss – but fixing hearing could make cognitive loss easier. For one thing, dementia might be even more stressful for people who can’t hear.</p> <p>Plus, people might disengage socially when they have a hard time hearing, which could speed up any cognitive decline, say the researchers. Hearing loss is sometimes associated with Alzheimer’s as well, though generally, the causes of the two diseases are different.</p> <p><strong>Get your blood pressure down</strong></p> <p>Without a healthy heart, it could be hard for your body to balance out the harmful free radicals in your body. In turn, that could cause oxidative stress and inflammation, which could damage your neurons.</p> <p><strong>Manage your diabetes</strong></p> <p>Having diabetes raises the risk of dementia, though researchers aren’t sure why. The theory is that when you can’t control your blood sugar, more goes to your brain.</p> <p>In turn, that can cause damage that leads to loss of cognitive function.</p> <p><strong>Lose some weight </strong></p> <p>Obesity raises your risk of dementia – possibly because it puts you at risk for high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. By keeping to a healthy weight, you can cut your risk for all three.</p> <p><strong>Go for a walk</strong></p> <p>This isn’t just about keeping at a healthy weight; a workout itself could cut down your risk. Older adults who exercise are less likely to develop dementia than those who don’t work out.</p> <p><strong>Quit smoking</strong></p> <p>If lung cancer wasn’t enough to make you kick your cigarette addiction, maybe this will: smokers are at higher risk of dementia. Researchers think that a couple things could be at play. For one thing, smoking isn’t healthy for your heart, and cardiovascular problems are linked with dementia.</p> <p>For another, the chemicals in the smoke could be toxic to your brain. What you put in your body has a huge impact on how it performs, especially later in life.</p> <p><strong>Schedule a mental health visit</strong></p> <p>There’s a link between depression and dementia, but researchers aren’t sure which causes the other. Depression might be an early sign in people who already have dementia, but it could also be a separate risk factor.</p> <p>Because depression affects stress hormones, brain neurons and the hippocampus (the part of the brain that deals with emotions and memory), it could increase dementia risk. Some antidepressants decrease the production of amyloid, which are proteins that can build up into plaque.</p> <p><strong>Set up a coffee date</strong></p> <p>Social isolation is associated with dementia. Like depression, though, researchers aren’t sure which one comes first.</p> <p>Either way, spending time with loved ones is a fun way to keep your brain active and raise your spirits – both of which can protect against cognitive decline. Expanding your social circle is another habit that reduces your risk of dementia.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/healthsmart/doing-these-9-things-can-cut-your-risk-of-dementia-by-35-per-cent-heres-why" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>
Kate Middleton cracks a crossword on the spot
<p dir="ltr">Kate Middleton has shown off her skill as a cruciverbalist - someone who enjoys and is skilled at crossword-solving - in a surprise encounter with a stumped student.</p> <p dir="ltr">The duchess was waved down during a royal visit to the University of Glasgow by 21-year-old Jack Baird, with a newspaper in hand and the hope that she could help him solve a tricky royal-related question, according to the <em><a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/word-perfect-kate-cracks-the-times-crossword-jw3ffhzr3" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Times</a></em>.</p> <p dir="ltr">The statistics undergraduate told the <em>Times </em>he was stuck on “seven down”, which asked for two words for the “sovereign's annual allowance”.</p> <p><span id="docs-internal-guid-fcd09ad6-7fff-9395-999e-e6eb65ce9cdd"></span></p> <p dir="ltr">“I couldn’t get the second word. I gave it to Kate and asked her as I’m sure she would have known,” Baird later told the newspaper.</p> <p dir="ltr">After he handed her the paper, which was May 8’s edition of the <em>Times</em>, Kate told him the answer: ‘Civil List’.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">The Duchess of Cambridge completed a crossword puzzle at the University of Glasgow. Jack Baird was stuck on 7 down:’Forerunner of the Sovereign Grant,the funding provided to support the official duties of The Queen'.Kate knew:Civil List,of course! (tip of the 👑 <a href="https://twitter.com/MattSunRoyal?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MattSunRoyal</a> ) <a href="https://t.co/GmwV2wKU20">pic.twitter.com/GmwV2wKU20</a></p> <p>— Rebecca English (@RE_DailyMail) <a href="https://twitter.com/RE_DailyMail/status/1524415326536237056?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 11, 2022</a></p></blockquote> <p dir="ltr">“She was very excited,” Baird continued. “It didn’t look like she was going to get it for a moment.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“She looked thrilled. I think she thought, ‘I wouldn’t live this down if I get this wrong’.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The student said he was “so chuffed” and would frame the page containing the non-cryptic Jumbo Crossword.</p> <p dir="ltr">He explained that the interaction was totally spontaneous and that he didn’t even know the royal couple would be on campus.</p> <p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-d4c3a217-7fff-b0a5-ba5b-23ed152d46d1"></span></p> <p dir="ltr">“I’d been studying in the library for exams and saw a group of people out here and wondered what was going on,” he said.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">So lovely to see so many people at the University today - it was buzzing! <a href="https://t.co/z8bv40LbDN">pic.twitter.com/z8bv40LbDN</a></p> <p>— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) <a href="https://twitter.com/KensingtonRoyal/status/1524448734951657472?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 11, 2022</a></p></blockquote> <p dir="ltr">The Duke and Duchess had come to the university to meet with students and professors to discuss mental health support, especially during COVID-19 and exam periods.</p> <p dir="ltr">In fact, they attracted such a large crowd of students that they later took to Twitter to apologise for not meeting them all.</p> <p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-acf35488-7fff-c8e3-b40a-9011cbaffea5"></span></p> <p dir="ltr">“So many students! Sorry if we missed you,” they wrote on their official Kensington Royal Twitter account, shared alongside a clip of them chatting with the crowd.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">So many students! Sorry if we missed you. <a href="https://t.co/dqoupFsWS4">pic.twitter.com/dqoupFsWS4</a></p> <p>— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) <a href="https://twitter.com/KensingtonRoyal/status/1524418612420919298?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 11, 2022</a></p></blockquote> <p dir="ltr">In another post, the couple shared a series of photos of themselves sitting with students and faculty to discuss mental health.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Exam season can be a challenging time for students of all ages,” the <a href="https://twitter.com/KensingtonRoyal/status/1524448437240012800" target="_blank" rel="noopener">tweet</a> read.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The support offered by universities, as well as the understanding and empathy of its students, has given us a real insight to the importance & value of talking about mental wellbeing #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-bad11cc5-7fff-e098-7309-1306fa64f662"></span></p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>
The surprising diet that can ward off dementia
<p dir="ltr">The foods we eat could help us to prevent the onset of dementia, according to a recent study. </p> <p dir="ltr">The new research shows that people with high levels of three key antioxidants in their blood are less likely to be diagnosed with the devastating disorder. </p> <p dir="ltr">Two of the compounds — lutein and zeaxanthin — are abundant in leafy green vegetables, such as kale and peas. </p> <p dir="ltr">The last antioxidant, beta-cryptoxanthin, is found in abundance in oranges and papayas. </p> <p dir="ltr">Lead researcher Dr May Beydoun, an expert in ageing from the US National Institutes of Health, said, “Extending people's cognitive function is an important public health challenge.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Antioxidants may help protect the brain from oxidative stress, which can cause cell damage.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Scientists have long advocated that a healthy, balanced diet can help to ward off dementia by boosting heart and circulatory health – both of which are known to play a role in the disease.</p> <p dir="ltr">As well as through diet, people can bolster their blood levels of the three compounds by taking supplements. </p> <p dir="ltr">During the extensive study, the effect of antioxidants on dementia was reduced when other factors were taken into account, including education, income and physical activity.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It's possible that those factors may help explain the relationship between antioxidant levels and dementia,” Dr Beydoun added.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>
Why do antidepressants help with nerve pain relief?
<div class="copy"> <p>Tricyclic antidepressants have long been known to have more than one purpose: among other things, they can alleviate pain – particularly nerve pain.</p> <p>Recent research has finally established <em>why</em> these tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) can help with nerve pain. The discovery could lead to the rapid development of pain relief medications that don’t include the side effects of TCAs.</p> <p>Nerve pain comes from a variety of sources – including cancer, diabetes, trauma, multiple sclerosis, and infections. These treatments could address a range of different types of nerve pain.</p> <p>It turns out the drugs inhibit a key protein in our nerves, called an N-type calcium channel. These N-type calcium channels are shaped like tiny gates, allowing positively charged calcium ions, or Ca<sup>2+</sup>, through them. This helps with the transmission of pain signals in the body.</p> <p>Researchers have long been keen to find things that “close” the gate of these calcium channels because that’s likely to have analgesic effects.</p> <p>Adjunct Professor Peter Duggan, a researcher with the CSIRO and senior collaborator on the project, says that he and his colleagues initially stumbled across TCAs from a very different direction: they were investigating the toxins of venomous marine cone snails.</p> <p>“A few of the components in that toxin are actually painkillers and they block these calcium ion channels very, very effectively,” says Duggan.</p> <p>The cone snail toxin has the potential to be very dangerous to people, as well as needing to be administered in an impractical way, so the researchers started looking at similar compounds that might have some of the same properties.</p> <p>“What we’ve been doing is designing and making small molecules that mimic the activity of those kinds of toxins,” says Duggan.</p> <p>“One class that we looked at gradually trended towards the same structure as the tricyclic antidepressants.”</p> <p>Once they realised that TCA-like molecules could block these calcium channels, the researchers set out to look at TCAs specifically.</p> <p>Duggan’s collaborators at the University of Queensland set up a lab-based experiment with 11 TCAs and two drugs that are chemically very similar to TCAs.</p> <p>These 13 drugs were administered to <em>in vitro</em> neuroblastoma cells.</p> <p>“They’re (neuroblastoma) a type of brain cancer cell that naturally expresses the channel we’re interested in,” explains Duggan.</p> <p>Analysis of the cells by UQ, CSIRO and Monash University researchers showed that the drugs could all limit the amount of calcium that got transmitted through the cells. This means that these TCAs must alleviate pain by inhibiting the N-type calcium channel.</p> <p>A paper describing the work is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1039/D1MD00331C" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">published</a> in <em>RSC Medicinal Chemistry.</em></p> <p>Duggan says that there may be other mechanisms by which TCAs kill pain as well, and they definitely have other biochemical effects in the body. But it’s unlikely that the calcium channel-blocking is helpful in treating depression.</p> <p>TCAs are a very old and well-established form of antidepressant, and for treating depression, they’ve largely been replaced by newer drugs with fewer side effects.</p> <p>“They’re what we call ‘dirty drugs’,” explains Dr Michael Vagg, dean of the Faculty of Pain Medicine at the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists, and an associate professor at Deakin University.</p> <p>“They have effects on lots of transmitter systems and receptors in the body. They don’t have just the one straightforward action; they have multiple actions.”</p> <p>This means that TCAs typically have several side effects, including drowsiness, blurred vision and constipation.</p> <p>But because the researchers now have a specific understanding of how they alleviate pain, they can develop new drugs that don’t have these side effects.</p> <p>“The more we understand about how TCAs are causing the painkilling effect, the actual intimate mechanism of how they’re doing it, then there’s more chance of us being able to develop compounds that target that type of activity and not have other side effects or the other antidepressant effects,” says Duggan.</p> <p>Vagg is optimistic that better drugs are on the way. He cites the recent proliferation of new migraine treatments, which arrived less than a decade after researchers <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/migraine-masters/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">found a similar key mechanism</a> in the brain, as his reasoning for this.</p> <p>He emphasises that it’s not yet a done deal – any new drug based on this research would still need to make it through the development pipeline and clinical trials.</p> <p>“I think because the tricyclic drugs are already widely used, and already seem to have – for most people – an acceptable level of safety, I suspect that means that development will go smoother rather than rougher,” says Vagg.</p> <p>This is good news for the roughly one in 20 Australians who suffer from nerve pain.</p> <p>“Nerve pain is highly disabling and ruins lives. The best current treatments only work to a useful degree on every third or fourth person who receives them,” says Vagg.</p> <p>“We have not had any really effective new treatments for nerve pain for a long time and this work opens up the possibility of designing a new class of drugs with improved safety and effectiveness.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em><!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --> <img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=189966&title=Why+do+antidepressants+help+with+nerve+pain+relief%3F" width="1" height="1" data-spai-target="src" data-spai-orig="" data-spai-exclude="nocdn" /> <!-- End of tracking content syndication --></em></div> <div id="contributors"> <p><em>This article was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/medicine/tricyclic-antidepressants-nerve-pain-treatments/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">cosmosmagazine.com</a> and was written by Ellen Phiddian. </em></p> </div>
Readers respond: What is an adult problem that nobody prepared you for?
<p>We asked our readers what the biggest surprise of adulthood was, and their answers were hilariously honest. </p> <p>From cooking everyday and having kids, to various aches and pains, here are all the adult problems that no one warned our readers about, before it was too late!</p> <p><strong>Jill Short </strong>- Needing to cook a meal every single night!!</p> <p><strong>Gail Fredericks</strong> - When you've got little kids, you can't go to the toilet on your own.</p> <p><strong>Diane Porter</strong> - Having to do your work and everyone else’s too, washing, shopping, cleaning, everything- unless you want to live in a pigsty and have nothing to eat.</p> <p><strong>Norma Fowler</strong> - Loss of mobility, the amount of paper work to get anything, the huge cost of nursing home care.</p> <p><strong>Julia Metcalfe</strong> - Being tired. All. The. Time.</p> <p><strong>Tolla Edda Anderson</strong> - Having to be more flexible as you age. That is having to adapt faster to a faster pace of life.</p> <p><strong>Camellia Musumeci-Cali </strong>- How lonely it gets when your children leave home. </p> <p><strong>Annette Bradshaw</strong> - When getting older, my head would write cheque’s that my body can’t cash.</p> <p><strong>Lynda Gibbons</strong> - The aches and pains of old age.</p> <p><strong>Wendy McKnight </strong>- Your body growing old while your mind is stuck on 35.</p> <p><strong>Pam Garmony</strong> - Trying to figure out how to program ovens and microwaves when you stay away from home.</p> <p><strong>Ron Wright</strong> - The fact that the hill at the end of our street gets steeper every year.</p> <p><strong>Terri Vanderwerf </strong>- Thinking of things to eat for the rest of your life!</p> <p><strong>Fran Matthews</strong> - Not been able to move quickly, after 2 hips 2 knee replacements in old age!</p> <p><strong>Jim Mitchell</strong> - That the "golden years" actually don't have gold.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>
Readers respond: What age do you wish you could permanently be?
<p>We asked our readers to reflect on their lives and pick one age to stay forever, and the responses were overwhelming. </p> <p>From the naivety of childhood, to the freedom of teenage years, here's what age our readers would like to stay forever. </p> <p><strong>Julia Metcalfe</strong> - 19. Living away from home. Didn't have to respond to anyone else's needs/wants/desires.</p> <p><strong>Jenny Bruce</strong> - 41, not working, owned our home, happy and healthy.</p> <p><strong>Steve Smith</strong> - About 45: have shrugged off adolescence, travelled a bit, drunk too much, learnt how to budget, learnt how to adapt, been fired and hired, and created life.</p> <p><strong>Marilyn Carter</strong> - 50 was when I started to get my act together by myself and loved it.</p> <p><strong>Margaret Weston</strong> - 68. I’d still have my darling husband. Happily retired, travelling with no aches & pains.</p> <p><strong>Mitchell Wilson</strong> - 40, lived enough to manoeuvre life and young enough to enjoy it.</p> <p><strong>Nikki Stevens</strong> - Maybe 30, with the benefit of hindsight I have now.</p> <p><strong>Joanne Birch</strong> - Probably 16, before life was anything but a game.</p> <p><strong>Toni Mitchell</strong> - 45. The kids were mostly off our hands &, we could travel while our health & athleticism was still intact.</p> <p><strong>Louise Tomlinson</strong> - 50 before menopause weight kicked in.</p> <p><strong>Mary Wilkerson</strong> - 22... Old enough to make decisions but young enough to change my life.</p> <p><strong>Jane Watts</strong> - 4, oblivious to the world, all the privileges, and no responsibility.</p> <p><strong>Annette Williams</strong> - Always thought 9 was a good year. Just fun and no worries at that age.</p> <p><strong>Mark Andrew Boyle</strong> - Anything younger than now. </p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>
Stroke, cancer and other chronic diseases more likely for those with poor mental health
<p><a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-statistics/health-welfare-services/mental-health-services/overview">Four million Australians</a>, including our friends, family members, co-workers and neighbours, are living with mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www.vu.edu.au/australian-health-policy-collaboration/publications#chronic-diseases">new report out today</a> from the <a href="https://www.vu.edu.au/australian-health-policy-collaboration">Australian Health Policy Collaboration</a> has found these four million Australians are at much greater risk of chronic physical disease and much greater risk of early death.</p> <p>Having a mental health condition increases the risk of every major chronic disease. Heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, back pain, diabetes, asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and cancer are all much more likely to occur among people with anxiety and depression. </p> <p>More than 2.4 million people have both a mental and at least one physical health condition.</p> <p>For the first time in Australia, this report quantifies the extent of this problem. For example, people with mental health conditions are more likely to have a circulatory system disease (that is, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke). The likelihood increases by 52% for men, and 41% for women.</p> <p>More than a million people are affected by both a circulatory system disease and a mental health condition. These diseases are Australia’s biggest killers.</p> <p>For painful, debilitating conditions such as arthritis and back pain, the numbers are even higher. Arthritis is 66% more likely for men with mental health conditions, and 46% more likely for women, with 959,000 people affected.</p> <p>Back pain is 74% more likely for men with mental health conditions, and 68% more likely for women, with more than a million affected.</p> <p>The gender differences are significant. Women with mental health conditions are much more likely to have asthma than women across Australia as a whole (70% more likely), while men are 49% more likely to have asthma with a mental health condition.</p> <p>The biggest gender difference is cancer. Men with mental health conditions are 84% more likely to have cancer than the general population, and for women the figure is 20%.</p> <p>As more women live with mental health conditions than men, overall, women are 23% more likely to be living with both a mental and physical health condition than men.</p> <p>The report shows having a co-existing mental health condition and chronic physical disease generally results in worse quality of life, greater functional decline, needing to use more health care and higher healthcare costs. </p> <p>These people require more treatment, use more medications, and have to spend more time, energy and money managing their health. People with a mental health condition are also <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(12)60240-2/abstract">more likely to be poorer</a>, less likely to work, less likely to receive health screening and, sadly, <a href="https://www.rethink.org/media/810988/Rethink%20Mental%20Illness%20-%20Lethal%20Discrimination.pdf">more likely to receive substandard care</a> for their physical diseases.</p> <p>On average, people with mental health conditions die younger than the general population, and mostly from preventable conditions. We know from <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f2539">earlier research</a>that people with severe mental illnesses die much earlier than the rest of the population. Our report shows even common mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression contribute to more chronic disease, leading to higher rates of early death.</p> <h2>Why?</h2> <p>We don’t know exactly why people with mental health conditions have poorer physical health. The <a href="https://acmedsci.ac.uk/policy/policy-projects/multimorbidity">Academy of Medical Sciences</a> has identified that poor mental health and psychosocial risk factors such as feeling dissatisfied with life, not feeling calm, having sleep problems that affect work, and financial concerns can predict physical disease.</p> <p>Other factors, such as <a href="https://theconversation.com/low-income-earners-are-more-likely-to-die-early-from-preventable-diseases-87676">low socioeconomic status</a>, poor social networks, living in rural areas and smoking are associated with both poor mental health and poor physical health.</p> <p>We do know people with mental health conditions often don’t receive advice about healthy lifestyles, don’t get common tests for disease, and are less likely to receive treatment for disease. Some of this is due to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21379357">stigma and discrimination</a>, and sometimes it’s neglect. People with mental health conditions can <a href="https://www.ranzcp.org/Files/Publications/RANZCP-Serious-Mental-Illness.aspx">fall through the gaps between disjointed physical and mental health systems</a>. </p> <h2>What can we do about it?</h2> <p>There is <a href="https://www.ranzcp.org/Files/Publications/RANZCP-Keeping-body-and-mind-together.aspx">momentum for change</a> among the mental health sector, with dozens of organisations signing up to the <a href="https://equallywell.org.au/">Equally Well</a> consensus statement. This aims to improve the quality of life of people living with mental illness by providing equal access to quality health care. </p> <p>There’s some great work being done around the country, including in the <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/inm.12459">Hunter region</a>, where people with mental health conditions can access tailored help with physical health risk factors such as smoking and diet.</p> <p>People using mental health services should have their physical health regularly assessed, and any problems addressed as early as possible. Better coordination of care would preserve healthcare resources and improve quality of life.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/stroke-cancer-and-other-chronic-diseases-more-likely-for-those-with-poor-mental-health-100955" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
Wake up Jeff! Extended napping in seniors may signal dementia
<div> <div class="copy"> <p>Daytime napping in older people is common and a normal part of aging, however, in excess it may also foreshadow <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/predictive-test-for-alzheimers-disease/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Alzheimer’s disease</a> and other <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/dementias-rising-pressure/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">dementias</a>, according to a <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1002/alz.12636" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">new study</a>.</p> <p>Researchers found that excessive daytime napping predicts an increased future risk of Alzheimer’s dementia. And, once dementia or its usual precursor – mild cognitive impairment – are diagnosed, the frequency and/or duration of napping accelerates rapidly.</p> <p>The results were published in <em>Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association</em>.</p> <p>“Daytime sleep behaviors of older adults are oftentimes ignored, and a consensus for daytime napping in clinical practice and health care is still lacking,” says co-first author Dr Peng Li, based at the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Massachussets, US.</p> <p>“Our results not only suggest that excessive daytime napping may signal an elevated risk of Alzheimer’s dementia, but they also show that faster yearly increase in daytime napping may be a sign of deteriorating or unfavored clinical progression of the disease,” adds Li.</p> <p>The study tracked data from 1,401 seniors for up to 14 years. Those studied, approximately three-quarters of whom were female, had an average age of 81 years. They wore watch-like devices that tracked mobility continuously for up to 14 days every year. Each prolonged period without activity detected by the device between 9am and 7pm was interpreted as a nap.</p> <p>In addition, they underwent yearly neuropsychological tests to evaluate cognition. At the start of the study 75.7% of participants had no cognitive impairment, while 19.5% had mild impairment and 4.1% had Alzheimer’s disease.</p> <p>The researchers found that longer and more frequent daytime naps were a risk factor for developing dementia in cognitively normal older men and women. As the disease progressed, annual increases in the duration and frequency of napping accelerated – especially after the clinical manifestation of Alzheimer’s dementia.</p> <p>This occurred independent of known risk factors for dementia – including age and night-time sleep duration and fragmentation.</p> <p>“We found the association between excessive daytime napping and dementia remained after adjusting for night-time quantity and quality of sleep,” says co-senior author Dr Yue Leng of the University of California San Francisco. “This suggested that the role of daytime napping is important itself and is independent of night-time sleep.”</p> <p>This increase in napping may be explained by a <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/alzheimers-disease-destroys-neurons-that-keep-us-awake/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">2019 study</a>, which compared the post-mortem brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease to those without cognitive impairment and found they had fewer wake-promoting neurons in three brain regions.</p> <p>The authors acknowledge the limitation that, because the study participants were older, the findings may not easily translate to younger cohort. They also suggest that future studies should test whether a direct intervention in daytime napping can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia or cognitive decline.</p> <p>“I don’t think we have enough evidence to draw conclusions about a causal relationship, that it’s the napping itself that caused cognitive aging, but excessive daytime napping might be a signal of accelerated aging or cognitive aging process,” says Leng. “It would be very interesting for future studies to explore whether intervention of naps may help slow down age-related cognitive decline.”</p> <p>“Our hope is to draw more attention to daytime sleep patterns and the importance of patients noting if their sleep schedule is changing over time,” adds co-senior author Dr Kun Hu, also of Brigham and Women’s Hospital.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em><!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --> <img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=185634&title=Wake+up+Jeff%21+Extended+napping+in+seniors+may+signal+dementia" width="1" height="1" data-spai-target="src" data-spai-orig="" data-spai-exclude="nocdn" /> <!-- End of tracking content syndication --></em></div> <div id="contributors"> <p><em>This article was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/body-and-mind/alzheimers-dementia-nap/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">cosmosmagazine.com</a> and was written by Imma Perfetto. </em></p> </div> </div>
Magic mushrooms relieve depression and now we might know why
<p dir="ltr">Psychedelics like psilocybin, the key active ingredient in magic mushrooms, have become a beacon of hope for people with depression that is resistant to other forms of treatment - and new research has shed some light on how they affect the brain.</p> <p dir="ltr">A team of psychedelics researchers have used MRI technology to understand how psilocybin works in the brain, finding that it first “dissolves” then expands brain connections.</p> <p dir="ltr">The study, published in <em><a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-022-01744-z" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Nature Medicine</a></em>, found that certain parts of depressed people’s brains became more interconnected and flexible after two doses of psilocybin, and that the changes lasted for up to three weeks.</p> <p dir="ltr">“These findings are important,” Professor David Nutt, a psychiatrist at the Imperial College London and one of the senior authors of the study, said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“For the first time we find that psilocybin works differently from conventional antidepressants - making the brain more flexible and fluid, and less entrenched in the negative thinking patterns associated with depression.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Though magic mushrooms have been used for their healing properties by Indigenous people for a long time, per <em><a href="https://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-have-finally-figured-out-how-magic-mushrooms-might-relieve-depression" target="_blank" rel="noopener">ScienceAlert</a></em>, their use in clinical trials - and our understanding of how they work - is limited.</p> <p dir="ltr">Previous research from Professor Nutt and his colleagues found that a combination of psilocybin and psychological therapy was as effective as taking escitalopram, a common antidepressant, without the common side effects that can include weight gain, reduced libido, and insomnia.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though this and other small studies have shown the benefits of psilocybin, how it works in the brain has been poorly understood until Professor Nutt’s most recent study.</p> <p dir="ltr">He and his team analysed the brain scans of 43 people with clinical depression who had participated in two previous clinical trials, including 22 people treated with psilocybin, and 21 people who received escitalopram.</p> <p dir="ltr">They found that those who received psilocybin had greater connectivity in regions of the brain that are rich in serotonin receptors which are usually segregated in depressed patients. A day after treatment, their brain networks were more interconnected and flexible, while no such changes were seen in the people taking the antidepressant.</p> <p dir="ltr">“This supports our initial predictions and confirms psilocybin could be a real alternative approach to depression treatments,” Professor Nutt said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Their findings match those of a study from 2020, which found similar changes in brain network connectivity up to a month after one dose of psilocybin.</p> <p dir="ltr">As exciting as these findings are, neuroscientist and fellow senior author Dr Robin Carhart-Harris said more research is needed.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We don’t know yet how long the changes in brain activity seen with psilocybin therapy last and we need to do more research to understand this,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We do know that some people relapse, and it may be that after a while their brains revert to the rigid patterns of activity we see in depression.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Either way, the researchers hope their findings pave the way for studying psilocybin’s effect on other mental illnesses characterised by rigid thought patterns, such as anorexia and addiction.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We now need to test if this is the case, and if it is, then we have found something important,” Dr Carhart-Harris said.</p> <p><span id="docs-internal-guid-3043ebe9-7fff-c5f3-3351-6e620f6ff71e"></span></p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>
Lockdowns doubled your risk of mental health symptoms
<p>During the almost two years of on-again off-again COVID lockdowns, we heard lots of concern from many different corners about the mental health effects of forcing people to stay home and keep away from friends and family. </p> <p>Many research projects were undertaken to attempt to measure the scale of the impacts on mental health. </p> <p>However, the speed with which research was generated meant in some cases, research quality was sacrificed, and some research found evidence of an effect on mental health, and some didn’t.</p> <p>To make sense of the very mixed findings, my colleagues and I conducted a <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352250X22000252">review</a> of all of the studies on mental health conducted during the first year of the pandemic.</p> <p>We included 33 published papers which studied a total of nearly 132,000 people across various world regions. </p> <p>We found that overall, social restrictions doubled people’s odds of experiencing mental health symptoms. This means, of those who participated in these studies, those who experienced lockdowns were twice as likely to experience mental ill health than those who didn’t.</p> <p>This finding can be broken down further by different mental health symptoms. Social restrictions saw the odds people would experience symptoms of depression increase by over 4.5 times, the odds of experiencing stress increased by nearly 1.5 times, and the odds of experiencing loneliness almost doubled.</p> <p>When we drilled down further into these results, we found the length and strictness of lockdowns affected mental health symptoms differently. For example, strict lockdowns increased depression, whereas the onset of social restrictions increased stress. Low social restrictions, where there were some restrictions in place but not total lockdown, were associated with increases in anxiety.</p> <p>Also, mental health outcomes differed by age, with young and middle-aged adults reporting greater negative mental health symptoms than older adults. </p> <h2>What lessons can we take away from these findings?</h2> <p>The findings give us a good idea of what public health outreach should look like in the event of future pandemics. </p> <p>Anxiety was most prevalent when low restrictions were introduced. This could be due to the fact people were nervous about the precarity of the situation and where the virus could be circulating. The introduction of such measures should be accompanied by public health messaging and interventions that focus on alleviating chronic fear and worry.</p> <p>During the periods of strict social restrictions, the predominant mental health issue was depression, meaning mental health responses should focus on combating depressive-related symptoms such as hopelessness and loss of purpose.</p> <p>The findings for stress suggest symptoms are likely to intensify during the early stages of social restriction enforcement. This is probably because the onset of restrictions communicates to people an increase in the seriousness of the pandemic threat, and people have to work very hard to re-organise their lives if restrictions involve the need to work from home and home-school.</p> <p>During these times, providing messaging and interventions that help people manage their stress, such as dealing with work stress or the stress of home-schooling children, may be especially important. For parents, making them feel capable in the home classroom and promoting strategies that foster positive family functioning (such as more constructive communication and problem-solving) could reduce parental and family stress.</p> <p>Given social restrictions were found to be associated with increases in loneliness, promotion of digital technologies to keep people feeling connected is also important.</p> <p>Across all these mental health issues, messages that communicate these symptoms are to be expected are likely to help individuals normalise and acknowledge the nature and severity of their symptoms. This, in turn, may prompt people to seek help for their mental health symptoms.</p> <h2>Research quality was poor</h2> <p>Another important point to highlight from our review is the research conducted during the first year of the pandemic was generally of poor quality. </p> <p>This is because good measures of social restrictions were hard to come by in studies. Some studies didn’t detail the specific restrictions in place in various cities, or did not ask study participants to what extent they complied with restrictions.</p> <p>Also, some studies surveyed people’s mental health symptoms on the day social restrictions were first enforced. Most people are likely to experience heightened but temporary spikes in mental health symptoms that may naturally reduce after the initial lockdown announcements. This means it’s difficult to get a handle on the “true” mental health effects of social restrictions on the first day restrictions are activated.</p> <p>However, the effects of social restrictions on mental health symptoms were similar across studies where people were surveyed at one time point and where they were surveyed on more than one occasion during restrictions. This suggests the estimated effects seem robust, despite many studies not having the best assessments of social restrictions.</p> <p>The findings of our review show that although we have a way to go in the way we conduct research into the mental health effects of COVID-19 social restrictions, the initial research highlights these restrictions indeed negatively impacted the mental well-being of citizens. </p> <p>Although such restrictions may be an effective public health response to mitigate the spread of viruses such as COVID-19, there needs to be a co-ordinated response to safeguard people’s physical and mental health.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/lockdowns-doubled-your-risk-of-mental-health-symptoms-180953" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
Mapping memories in the brain
<p>More than a century ago, <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/building-memory-in-the-early-years/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener" data-type="URL" data-id="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/building-memory-in-the-early-years/">memory</a> pioneer <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0022537178904437" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener" data-type="URL" data-id="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0022537178904437">Richard Semon</a> predicted a “unified engram complex”, that is, a complex of connected brain regions that would all be involved in the recall of a single memory.</p> <p>Now, a new study by researchers at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT, US, suggests Semon may have been on to something. Evidence is mounting that a single memory dances across many different brain regions at once, linked to clusters of memory recall-cells called engrams.</p> <p>In the new <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-29384-4" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">study</a>, published in <em>Nature Communications, </em>the team of researchers identified and ranked dozens of areas that hadn’t previously been thought associated with memory. By conducting experiments on mice in the lab, they ultimately built a huge map of all the brain regions that seem involved with the art of remembering.</p> <p>So, how did they do it?</p> <p><strong>Mapping memory in mice</strong></p> <p>To test which brain regions might be roped into memory recall, the team performed a set of experiments on mice. Firstly, they analysed 247 brain regions in mice that were taken from their home cage to another cage where they were exposed to a small but memorable electrical zap.</p> <p>In one group of mice, their neurons were engineered to become fluorescent when they expressed a gene required for memory encoding (i.e. storing the information as a memory). In another group, cells activated by remembering the electrical zap were fluorescently labelled. </p> <p>Once the mouse brains were preserved, the researchers could use a computer to count the fluorescing cells in each sample. This allowed them to create a brain map of regions with a clear link to memory encoding <em>and </em>memory recall. </p> <p>By comparing these mapped regions to the brains of control mice that weren’t exposed to zaps, they were able to discount certain regions, and produce a ranked order of 117 regions with a clear likelihood of involvement in memory.</p> <p>To really be an engram cell, the authors theorised, a neuron should be activated in both the encoding (recording) and recall (remembering) of a memory.</p> <p><iframe src="//players.brightcove.net/5483960636001/HJH3i8Guf_default/index.html?videoId=6303670603001" width="528" height="300" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> <p><em>Many brain regions found likely to be involved in encoding a memory (top) were also found to be involved in recall upon reactivation (bottom). Credit: Tonegawa Lab/MIT Picower Institute</em></p> <p>What they found was a massive engram complex.</p> <p>“These experiments not only revealed significant engram reactivation in known hippocampal and amygdala regions, but also showed reactivation in many thalamic, cortical, midbrain and brainstem structures,” the authors write. “Importantly when we compared the brain regions identified by the engram index analysis with these reactivated regions, we observed that around 60% of the regions were consistent between analyses.”</p> <p><strong>Manipulating memories </strong></p> <p>Having ranked all the regions likely to be engaged in the engram complex, the team decided to test its predictions. </p> <p>The researchers engineered some of the mice so that cells activated by memory encoding would also become controllable with flashes of light (a technique known as “optogenetics”). They then applied flashes of light to select brain regions from their engram index list to see if, when hit with the light stimulus, the mice would freeze in place, which is a classic fear behaviour.</p> <p>“Strikingly, all these brain regions induced robust memory recall when they were optogenetically stimulated,” the researchers write. Stimulating areas that their analysis suggested were insignificant to memory, on the other hand, did not produce freezing behaviour – suggesting they weren’t recalling the zap.</p> <p>Then, they tested how each region in the complex connects to one another, and found that stimulating just one part of the complex would produce a less robust memory recall than stimulating all – inferred because stimulating just one region produced a less dramatic freeze response. </p> <p>It suggests that this massive memory complex can make memories stronger.</p> <p><strong>What’s all the fuss?</strong></p> <p>You might wonder, why put these poor little mice through such experiments? But the neuroscience of memory is important; the more we understand it, the more we can understand when it goes wrong.</p> <p>Co-lead author Dheeraj Roy says that by storing a single memory across such a massive complex, the brain may be making memory more efficient and resilient.</p> <p>“Different memory engrams may allow us to recreate memories more efficiently when we are trying to remember a previous event (and similarly for the initial encoding where different engrams may contribute different information from the original experience),” he says. </p> <p>“Secondly, in disease states, if a few regions are impaired, distributed memories would allow us to remember previous events and in some ways be more robust against regional damages.”</p> <p>This second point could suggest the way to an actual clinical application of this engram complex.</p> <p>“If some memory impairments are because of hippocampal or cortical dysfunction, could we target understudied engram cells in other regions, and could such a manipulation restore some memory functions?” Roy says.</p> <p><!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --></p> <p><img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=187851&title=Mapping+memories+in+the+brain" width="1" height="1" data-spai-target="src" data-spai-orig="" data-spai-exclude="nocdn" /></p> <p><!-- End of tracking content syndication --></p> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/body-and-mind/mapping-memories-brain/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">This article</a> was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/amalyah-hart" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Amalyah Hart</a>. Amalyah Hart is a science journalist based in Melbourne. She has a BA (Hons) in Archaeology and Anthropology from the University of Oxford and an MA in Journalism from the University of Melbourne.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p> </div>
Readers respond: What was the best and worst phase of your life?
<p>We asked our readers what the biggest highs and lows of their lives were, and we were met with many emotional responses. </p> <p>From wedding days and travelling, to devastating losses, here's what the best and worst phases of your life were. </p> <p><strong>Pauline Cox</strong> - The worst was school days. The best was every other time.</p> <p><strong>Pam West</strong> - The best: my wedding day. The worst: the day my husband died. </p> <p><strong>Maureen Kirkwood</strong> - My best was when I met my darling husband Peter and lived with him. The worse was when I was 49 and Peter died of a heart attack whilst working in Malaysia. He was only 56.</p> <p><strong>Theresa Hignett</strong> - The best was when people said "You can do…". The worst was when they said "You can’t do…", when I knew I could.</p> <p><strong>Jilly Dal</strong> - Having my children was best. Now is worst.</p> <p><strong>Gail Wilmer</strong> - Best part was meeting and marrying my husband. Worst was losing my beautiful Mum & Dad and being diagnosed with cancer, but I fought it and come out the other side stronger than ever so there was good gained from the bad.</p> <p><strong>Kathleen Farrell</strong> - Being a mum is the best and seeing my husband slide into dementia, the worst!</p> <p><strong>Geoff Hunt </strong>- The best part was getting married, raising our four kids then grandkids. The worst part was losing my wife of 45 years to the bloody big C.</p> <p><strong>Marion Junor</strong> - My days with my family. The worst is the world they are inheriting.</p> <p><strong>Judith Hancock</strong> - Best was having my daughters, then 4 gorgeous granddaughters. Worst is Covid.</p> <p><strong>Jennifer Broomhall-White</strong> - Best day was the day I laid eyes on my children’s faces for the first time. Worst day of my life was the day I lost my mother, the one person who truly loved me unconditionally.</p> <p><strong>Lyn Clarke Evans</strong> - Retirement was the best time. My mother dying was the worst time.</p> <p><strong>Col Robinson</strong> - Best my wife and boys, worst coming home from Vietnam.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>
Caffeine could be used to treat ADHD
<div> <div class="copy"> <p>Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (<a href="https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/attention-deficit-disorder-add-or-adhd#:~:text=Around%201%20in%20every%2020,experience%20the%20symptoms%20into%20adulthood." target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">ADHD</a>), a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity, is estimated to affect <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/pb-assets/Lancet/gbd/summaries/diseases/adhd.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">84.7 million people worldwide</a>. It is the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/australias-children/contents/health/children-mental-illness" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">in Australian children</a>, and of those about 15% continue to live with ADHD <a href="https://psychology.org.au/for-the-public/psychology-topics/adhd-in-adults#:~:text=About%202%20to%203%25%20of%20adults%20are%20diagnosed%20with%20ADHD.&text=While%20ADHD%20begins%20in%20childhood,to%20have%20ADHD%20as%20adults." target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">as adults</a>.</p> <p>Experts are continuing to investigate different substances that may be capable of providing new treatment opportunities for people diagnosed with ADHD. Now, a <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/14/4/739/htm" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">recent systematic review</a> of pre-clinical studies in animal models suggests that including caffeine in the therapeutic approach could be used to alleviate some of it’s symptoms.</p> <p>“The therapeutic arsenal for alleviating ADHD is limited, and there is a certain degree of controversy around the use of some types of medications and stimulants, especially during childhood and adolescence,” explains Javier Vázquez, one of the lead authors from the Faculty of Health Sciences at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), Spain.</p> <p>“That’s why it’s useful to study the efficacy of other substances, such as caffeine.”</p> <p>The review included 13 studies in animal models, published between 2005 and 2020, to assess the association between caffeine and ADHD-dependent variables including attention, locomotor activity, impulsive behaviour, learning, and memory.</p> <p>The researchers found that regular caffeine consumption was linked to increased attention span, improved concentration, learning benefits, and improvements in some types of memory. They also found that controlled treatment with caffeine doesn’t lead to side-effects such as altered blood pressure, or an increase or reduction in body weight.</p> <p>However, the results for its effects on other characteristic symptoms of ADHD, such as hyperactivity and impulsivity, are not clear.</p> <p>“In diagnoses in which the problem is purely attentional, caffeine may be an appropriate therapy, but if there’s a symptomatologic presence of hyperactivity or impulsivity, we must be more cautious,” emphasises Vázquez.</p> <p>“Our results reinforce the hypothesis that the cognitive effects of caffeine found in animal models can be translated and applied in the treatment of ADHD in people, especially at young ages such as adolescence,” the authors conclude.</p> <p>In Australia, it’s estimated that around 4% of adults (between 18 and 44 years of age) live with ADHD. The 2019 <a href="https://scinema.org.au/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">SCINEMA International Science Film Festival</a> documentary <em>ADHD – Not Just for Kids</em> follows the personal journeys of <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/body-and-mind/leonardo-da-vinci-had-adhd-neuroscientist-claims/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">adults diagnosed with ADHD</a> late in life, challenging some of the most persistent myths surrounding the disorder.</p> <p>Through interviews with leading experts, the film explores recent research in the field and explains what’s happening in the brains of these individuals, and why stimulants like <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/methylphenidate-oral-route/side-effects/drg-20068297?p=1" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">methylphenidate</a> – or potentially caffeine – are used to treat their symptoms.</p> <figure class="wp-block-embed is-type-video is-provider-youtube wp-block-embed-youtube wp-embed-aspect-16-9 wp-has-aspect-ratio"> <div class="wp-block-embed__wrapper"> <div class="entry-content-asset"> <div class="embed-wrapper"> <div class="inner"><iframe title="How ADHD Affects Adults | ADHD - Not Just for Kids (Full Documentary) | Only Human" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jyUVc0Iteb0?feature=oembed" width="500" height="281" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></div> </div> </div> </div> </figure> <p>The film also touches on the potential link between prenatal nicotine exposure through smoking and ADHD in offspring. However, a <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.15858" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">recent review</a> suggests that although smoking during pregnancy is associated with ADHD offspring, it’s unlikely to be the cause of it.</p> <p>It has been unclear whether smoking directly causes ADHD or if this association is due to other confounding factors such as socioeconomic position, education, income, and maternal age.</p> <p>The systematic review and meta-analysis looked at 46 studies that assessed the association between maternal prenatal smoking and offspring diagnosis with the disorder, and found no clear evidence to support a causal relationship. Instead, shared genetics plays a substantial role in the association.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em><!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --> <img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=187494&title=Caffeine+could+be+used+to+treat+ADHD" width="1" height="1" data-spai-target="src" data-spai-orig="" data-spai-exclude="nocdn" /> <!-- End of tracking content syndication --></em></div> <div id="contributors"> <p><em>This article was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/body-and-mind/caffeine-to-treat-adhd/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">cosmosmagazine.com</a> and was written by Imma Perfetto.</em></p> </div> </div>
Explainer: what is aphasia?
<div> <div class="copy"> <p>After racking up more than 100 films over the span of four decades, Bruce Willis is <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-03-31/hollywood-star-bruce-willis-steps-away-from-acting-aphasia/100953764" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">closing out</a> his stellar acting career. In a statement released by his family, his withdrawal from the spotlight has been attributed to a recent diagnosis with a condition called aphasia.</p> <p>Never heard of aphasia before? You’re in good company. In a <a href="https://www.aphasia.org/2020-aphasia-awareness-survey/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">2020 survey on aphasia awareness</a>, 86.2% of participants had never heard of the condition. Of the few who did recognise the term, a third either had aphasia themselves or personally knew someone who did.</p> <p>The disorder simply doesn’t have the broad recognition of <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/science/biology/parkinsons-patients-trained-to-respond-to-placebos/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Parkinson’s disease</a>, cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis.</p> <p>And yet, aphasia is more common than any of these, affecting over a million Australians – and twice that number in the US.</p> <p>So what is it?</p> <h2>Aphasia explained</h2> <p>Aphasia is an acquired communication disorder that impairs a person’s ability to process language – sufferers struggle to speak and to understand others, and often also experience difficulties with reading and writing.</p> <p>But there’s no one-size-fits-all description of the disorder, and its severity can be wide ranging. In mild cases, aphasia may be barely noticeable. In more severe cases, communication can become near impossible.</p> <p>Importantly, aphasia is not a disease, but rather a symptom of brain damage. This means that there’s no one single cause of the condition. Instead, aphasia may occur suddenly, often as a result of a stroke or head injury, or may creep up insidiously as a side effect of a brain tumour, infection or dementia.</p> <p>The exact location of damage to the brain determines the nature and severity of the resulting language dysfunction. Generally, aphasia can be divided into three broad categories:</p> <p><strong>Broca aphasia</strong>: patients have damage to <strong>front</strong> portion of the language-dominant side of the brain. They may eliminate simple words, like “and” and “the”, from their speech, but can still construct meaningful – if abbreviated – sentences. The patient knows what they wish to say, but simply can’t find the words to say it.</p> <p><strong>Wernicke aphasia</strong>: patients have damage to the <strong>side</strong> portion of the language-dominant portion of the brain. They often speak in rambling, confusing sentences, adding unnecessary words or creating entirely new words of their own. The patient can hear spoken words without difficulty, or read words in print, but struggles to make sense of them.</p> <p><strong>Global aphasia</strong>: patients with this most severe presentation have more profound difficulties with all aspects of speaking or comprehending language.</p> <h2>Aphasia doesn’t indicate diminished intelligence</h2> <p>The aphasia awareness study offered another telling insight, beyond the lack of recognition of the disorder. Nearly half of all respondents strongly correlated intellectual capacity with speech ability, believing that “if a person has difficulties with speech, they also have intellectual deficiencies”.</p> <p>While it’s easy to assume that the loss of speech correlates with the loss of an internal dialogue, and consequently of a thinking mind, this is absolutely not true of patients with aphasia – and it’s an assumption that can make interactions with aphasia patients unnecessarily challenging.</p> <p>Provided the brain injury that caused the aphasia hasn’t impacted other areas of the brain, the damage wrought in the language centre of the brain doesn’t affect what patients remember, or how they think. They retain the same personality – the same bad jokes, strong opinions, and lifetime of stories are still present inside the mind, but now the patient struggles to make them manifest in the external world.</p> <h2>Treating aphasia</h2> <p>Aphasia isn’t necessarily a life-long diagnosis. The brain is a remarkably flexible and resilient organ, and many people with aphasia see dramatic improvements in their language abilities with dedicated treatment.</p> <p>Research has shown that communication abilities can continue to improve for many years after traumatic injury and the onset of aphasia, though progress is largely determined by the extent of the injury. In slow-developing cases, such as those associated with the onset of dementia, recovery may not be possible – but targeted therapy may still assist in developing ways to build on remaining language abilities, incorporating alternative means of communication such as sign language or pictures.</p> <h2>Increasing aphasia awareness</h2> <p>The tragedy of aphasia lies in its shrouding silence – shut inside their own minds, sufferers struggle to convey the nature of their experience. As a result, despite its prevalence, aphasia is largely unknown in the general community.</p> <p>This can make life incredibly challenging for aphasic patients and their carers, not only in their personal sphere, but in accessing social and medical services.</p> <p>Increasing aphasia awareness is a vital step towards alleviating some of the difficulties that patients face. According to the awareness survey, among those who were aware of the condition, movies and television were one of the most commons means of introduction. Tragic though his diagnosis is, Willis’s publicly declared diagnosis with aphasia could make significant inroads in garnering the crucial awareness needed for this silent struggle. His acting career will be widely celebrated, but this may yet be his most vital contribution to the world.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em><!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --> <img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=186949&title=Explainer%3A+what+is+aphasia%3F" width="1" height="1" data-spai-target="src" data-spai-orig="" data-spai-exclude="nocdn" /> <!-- End of tracking content syndication --></em></div> <div id="contributors"> <p><em>This article was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/body-and-mind/aphasia/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">cosmosmagazine.com</a> and was written by Jamie Priest. </em></p> </div> </div>
Why this new mum lay down with her baby daughter in front of a train
<p dir="ltr"><strong>CONTENT WARNING: Distressing content</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">A Victorian courtroom has heard further details surrounding an incident in which a new mother struggling with postpartum depression killed her daughter by laying down with her on train tracks.</p> <p dir="ltr">Melissa Arbuckle appeared in the Victorian Supreme Court on Tuesday where she pleaded guilty to infanticide over the tragic incident at a train station in July last year.</p> <p dir="ltr">Defence barrister Megan Tittensor told the court that Arbuckle suffered severe postpartum depression and psychosis when she tried to kill herself and her daughter, Lily.</p> <p dir="ltr">The court heard that Arbuckle thought Lily was suffering from shaken baby syndrome and that she would eventually die.</p> <p dir="ltr">“This act was committed by someone with a significantly disturbed mind,” Tittensor told the court, <a href="https://7news.com.au/news/court-justice/vic-court-told-of-mums-disturbed-mind-c-6341505" target="_blank" rel="noopener">7News</a> reported.</p> <p dir="ltr">“She had a fixed delusional belief she had harmed her child and they were both broken.</p> <p dir="ltr">“She had a perfectionist personality and need for control...she wanted to be the perfect mother.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Arbuckle was struggling with Lily while taking her for a walk when she began looking at train timetables, the court heard.</p> <p dir="ltr">She then messaged her husband saying their daughter was unsettled, before placing Lily on the train track and laying down next to her.</p> <p dir="ltr">The pair were struck but Lily died while being airlifted to hospital, and Arbuckle survived with fractures and internal bleeding.</p> <p dir="ltr">Arbuckle remains on bail and will be sentenced on Thursday.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Lifeline 13 11 14</em></p> <p dir="ltr"><em>beyondblue 1300 22 4636</em></p> <p><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-24028b0b-7fff-a14b-36d0-4e28f7f0372d"></span></em></p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Seven News</em></p>
Join our community of over 400,000-plus members today and get the latest Over60 news, offers and articles.
Get all the latest Over60 news, offers and articles.