A small study by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found that a workplace mindfulness-based intervention reduced stress levels of employees exposed to a highly stressful occupational environment, according to a news release.
Members of a surgical ICU at the academic medical center were randomized to a stress-reduction intervention or a control group. The eight-week group intervention included mindfulness, gentle stretching, yoga, meditation and music therapy in the workplace. Psychological and biological markers of stress were measured one week before and one week after the intervention to see if these coping strategies would help reduce stress and burnout among participants.
Results of this study, published in the April 2015 issue of Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, showed levels of the chemical salivary alpha amylase, were significantly decreased from the first to second assessments in the intervention group. The control group showed no changes. Chronic stress and stress reactivity have been found associated with increased levels of salivary alpha amylase, according to the release. Psychological components of stress and burnout were measured using well-established self-report questionnaires. “Our study shows that this type of mindfulness-based intervention in the workplace could decrease stress levels and the risk of burnout,” one of the study’s authors, Maryanna Klatt, PhD, associate clinical professor in the department of family medicine at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, said in the release. “What’s stressful about the work environment is never going to change. But what we were interested in changing was the nursing personnel’s reaction to those stresses.”
Klatt said salivary alpha amylase, which is a biomarker of the sympathetic nervous system activation, was reduced by 40% in the intervention group.
Klatt, who is a trained mindfulness and certified yoga instructor, developed and led the mindfulness-based intervention for 32 participants in the workplace setting. At baseline, participants scored the level of stress of their work at 7.15 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most stressful. The levels of work stress did not change between the first and second set of assessments, but their reaction to the work stress did change, according to the release.
When stress is part of the work environment, it is often difficult to control and can negatively affect employees’ health and ability to function, lead author Anne-Marie Duchemin, PhD, research scientist and associate professor adjunct in the department of psychiatry and behavioral health at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, said in the release. “People who are subjected to chronic stress often will exhibit symptoms of irritability, nervousness, feeling overwhelmed; have difficulty concentrating or remembering; or having changes in appetite, sleep, heart rate and blood pressure,” Duchemin said ih the release. “Although work-related stress often cannot be eliminated, effective coping strategies may help decrease its harmful effects.”
The study was funded in part by the OSU Harding Behavioral Health Stress, Trauma and Resilience Program, part of Ohio State’s Neurological Institute.
Wed, May 20, 2015 @ 02:25 PM
A small study by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found that a workplace mindfulness-based intervention reduced stress levels of employees exposed to a highly stressful occupational environment, according to a news release.
Fri, May 15, 2015 @ 12:02 PM
Written by Catharine Paddock PhD
A new study that offers insights into early language development suggests babies prefer listening to other babies rather than adults as they get ready to produce their own speech sounds.
The study, led by McGill University in Canada and published in the journal Developmental Science, observed the reactions of infants aged from 4-6 months who were not yet attempting speech, as they listened to baby-like and adult-like sounds produced by a voice synthesizer.
They found when the vowel sounds the babies listened to sounded more baby-like (for instance, higher pitch), the infants paid attention longer than when the sounds had more adult-like vocal properties.
Previous studies have shown that children at this age are more attracted to vocal sounds with a higher voice pitch, the authors note in their paper.
The team says the finding is important because being attracted to infant speech sounds may be a key step in babies being able to find their own voice - it may help to kick-start the process of learning how to talk.
They say the discovery increases our understanding of the complex link between speech perception and speech production in young infants.
It may also lead to new ways to help hearing-impaired children who may be struggling to develop language skills, they note.
Baby-like sounds held infants' attention nearly 42% longer
For the study, the team used a voice synthesizer to create a set of vowel sounds that mimicked either the voice of a baby or the voice of a woman.
They then ran a series of experiments where they played the vowel sounds one at a time to the babies as they sat on their mother's lap and listened. They measured the length of time each vowel sound held the infants' attention.
The results showed that, on average, baby-like sounds held the infants' attention nearly 42% longer than the adult-like sounds.
The researchers note that this finding is unlikely to be a result of the babies having a particular preference for a familiar sound because they were not yet producing those sounds themselves - they were not yet part of their everyday experience.
Some of the infants showed their interest in other ways. For example, when they listened to the adult sounds, their faces remained fairly passive and neutral. In contrast, when they heard the baby-like sounds, they became more animated, moved their mouths and smiled.
The following video shows how one of the infants - baby Camille, who is not yet babbling herself - reacts to the various sounds. Every time she looks away, the sound is replaced by another. Her reactions show which sounds she seems to like the most.
Babies need to 'find their own voice'
The researchers say maybe the babies recognized that the baby-like sounds were more like sounds they could make themselves - despite not having heard them before.
The findings may also explain the instinct some people have when they automatically speak to infants in baby-like, high-pitched tones, says senior author Linda Polka, a professor in McGill's School of Communication Disorders, who adds:
"As adults, we use language to communicate. But when a young infant starts to make speech sounds, it often has more to do with exploring than with communicating."
Prof. Polka says babies often try speaking when they are on their own, without eye contact or interaction with others. She explains:
"That's because to learn how to speak babies need to spend lots of time moving their mouths and vocal cords to understand the kind of sounds they can make themselves. They need, quite literally, to 'find their own voice.'"
Funds for the study came from the Natural Sciences Engineering and Research Council.
Meanwhile, parents and schools looking for ways to encourage children to eat more healthily may be interested in a study carried out among kindergarten through sixth-grade students at an inner-city school in Cincinnati, OH. There, researchers discovered that children found healthy food more appealing when linked to smiley faces and other small incentives. The low-cost intervention led to a 62% rise in vegetable purchases and a 20% rise in fruit purchases.
Mon, Apr 13, 2015 @ 11:06 AM
Written by Honor Whiteman
Researchers have identified a signal in the amygdala brain region of young children that stimulates aversion to the opposite sex and induces interest in the opposite sex as children enter puberty.
Published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, the study challenges previous beliefs about the role of the amygdala, according to the researchers.
Lead investigator Eva Telzer, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says the amygdala was once believed to be a threat detector. "But increasing evidence indicates that it is activated whenever someone detects something meaningful in the environment," she notes. "It is a significance detector."
To reach their findings, Telzer and her team enrolled 93 youths aged 7-17 years to the study and assessed their attitudes toward children of the same sex and of the opposite sex.
In addition, the researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to assess the brain activity of 52 youths aged 4-18 as they viewed same- and opposite-sex faces.
Amygdala activity wanes between the ages of 10 and 12
The team found that young children aged 4-7 years had more negative attitudes toward the opposite sex - a finding they say supports the "cooties" phenomenon, in which young children steer clear of the opposite sex with the belief that they may "contaminate" them if they get too close.
"Only the youngest children in our sample demonstrated a behavioral sex bias such that they rated same-sex peers as having more positive (and less negative) attributes than opposite-sex peers," say the researchers.
Interestingly, children of this age showed increased brain activity in the amygdala region of the brain as they viewed faces of the opposite sex. "And so we think the amygdala is signaling the significance of cooties at this developmental period," says Telzer.
The researchers found that among children between ages of 10 and 12, there was no difference in the amygdala's response to same- and opposite-sex faces.
However, they saw a significant increase in amygdala response to the opposite sex from 12 years onwards - just as children begin to enter puberty. The researchers say this may correspond with the "crush" phenomenon, in which pubescent youths become captivated with the opposite sex.
"When puberty hits, gender becomes more significant again, whether it's because your body is changing, or because of sexual attraction or you are becoming aware of more rigid sexual boundaries as you become more sexually mature," says Telzer. "The brain is responding very appropriately, in terms of what's changing developmentally."
In May 2014, Medical News Today reported on a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in which researchers found changes in cerebral blood flow levels differ between girls and boys during puberty, with such levels rising in girls and reducing in boys.
The researchers of that study - led by Dr. Theodore Satterthwaite of Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania - say the findings were linked to higher risk of anxiety in females and increased risk of schizophrenia in males.
"These findings help us understand normal neurodevelopment and could be a step toward creating normal 'growth charts' for brain development in kids," says Dr. Satterthwaite. "These results also show what every parent knows: boys and girls grow differently. This applies to the brain as well."
Mon, Feb 16, 2015 @ 11:21 AM
Up to a third of teens in the U.S. don’t get enough sleep each night, and the loss of shut-eye negatively impacts their grades, mental well-being and physical health. Biologically, adolescents need fewer hours of slumber than kids — but there’s a bigger reason for teens’ sleep loss, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics.
Katherine Keyes, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, looked at survey data from more than 270,000 eighth-, 10th- and 12th-grade students at 130 public and private schools across the country, gathered between 1991 and 2010. Each student was asked two questions about his or her sleep habits: how often they slept for at least seven hours a night, and how often they slept less than they should.
She found that over the 20-year study period, adolescents got less and less sleep. Part of that had to do with the fact that biologically, teens sleep less the older they get, but Keyes and her team also teased apart a period effect — meaning there were forces affecting all the students, at every age, that contributed to their sleeping fewer hours. This led to a marked drop in the average number of adolescents reporting at least seven hours of sleep nightly between 1991–1995 and 1996–2000.
That surprised Keyes, who expected to find sharper declines in sleep in more recent years with the proliferation of cell phones, tablets and social media. “I thought we would see decreases in sleep in more recent years, because so much has been written about teens being at risk with technologies that adversely affect the sleep health of this population,” she says. “But that’s not what we found.”
Instead, the rises in the mid-1990s corresponded with another widespread trend affecting most teens — the growth of childhood obesity. Obesity has been tied to health disturbances including sleep changes like sleep apnea, and “the decreases in sleep particularly in the 1990s across all ages corresponds to a time period when we also saw increases in pediatric obesity across all ages,” says Keyes. Since then, the sleep patterns haven’t worsened, but they haven’t improved either, which is concerning given the impact that long-term sleep disturbances can have on overall health.
Keyes also uncovered another worrying trend. Students in lower-income families and those belonging to racial and ethnic minorities were more likely to report getting fewer than seven hours of sleep regularly than white teens in higher-income households. But they also said they were getting enough sleep, revealing a failure of public-health messages to adequately inform all adolescent groups about how much sleep they need: about nine hours a night.
“When we first started looking at that data, I kept saying it had to be wrong,” says Keyes. “We were seeing completely opposite patterns. So our results show that health literacy around sleep are not only critical but that those messages are not adapted universally, especially not among higher-risk groups.”
Wed, Dec 17, 2014 @ 11:35 AM
At birth, a newborn baby is still attached to its mother through the umbilical cord, which is either cut very early - within the first 60 seconds - or later, with some women opting to wait until after the cord has stopped pulsating. Though the right timing for cutting the cord - also referred to as clamping - is widely debated, a new study suggests delaying cord clamping by 2 minutes results in better development for the newborn during the first days of life.
The research, carried out by scientists from the University of Granada and the San Cecilio Clinical Hospital in Spain, is published in the journal Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the reason that cord clamping timing is so controversial is that a previous series of studies into blood volume changes after birth concluded that in healthy term infants, more than 90% of blood volume was attained within the first few breaths he or she took after birth.
As a result of these findings, as well as a lack of other recommendations regarding optimal timing, the amount of time between birth and umbilical cord clamping was widely shortened; in most cases, cord clamping occurs within 15-20 seconds after birth.
However, before these studies, in the mid-1950s, cord clamping within 1 minute of birth was defined as "early clamping," and "late clamping" was defined as more than 5 minutes after birth. And the ACOG have stated that "the ideal timing for umbilical cord clamping has yet to be established."
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) advocate for late cord clamping (between 1-3 minutes after birth), as it "allows blood flow between the placenta and neonate to continue, which may improve iron status in the infant for up to 6 months after birth."
Waiting 2 minutes increased antioxidant capacity
To provide further evidence in the debate of early versus late cord clamping, the researchers from this latest study, led by Prof. Julio José Ochoa Herrera of the University of Granada, assessed newborn outcomes for infants born to 64 healthy pregnant women to determine the impact of clamping timing on oxidative stress and the inflammatory signal produced during delivery.
All of these women had a normal pregnancy and spontaneous vaginal delivery. However, half of the women's newborns had their umbilical cord cut 10 seconds after delivery and half had it cut after 2 minutes.
Results revealed beneficial effects of late cord clamping; there was an increase in antioxidant capacity and moderation of inflammatory effects in the newborns.
Commenting further, Prof. Ochoa says:
"Our study demonstrates that late clamping of the umbilical cord has a beneficial effect upon the antioxidant capacity and reduces the inflammatory signal induced during labor, which could improve the development of the newborn during his or her first days of life."
He adds that umbilical cord clamping is one of the most frequent surgical interventions practiced in humans, with proof of the practice dating back centuries.
Early clamping 'not advised unless newborn needs resuscitation'
With evidence of benefits for delayed cord clamping, however, why are most newborns separated from the placenta within 15-20 seconds after birth? According to the ACOG, there are concerns over universally adopting delayed clamping because it could "jeopardize timely resuscitation efforts, if needed, especially in preterm infants."
"However," the organization states, "because the placenta continues to perform gas exchange after delivery, sick and preterm infants are likely to benefit most from additional blood volume derived from a delay in umbilical cord clamping."
There are also other concerns regarding delayed cord clamping, including an increased potential for "excessive placental transfusion, which can lead to neonatal polycythemia" - an abnormally high level of red blood cells. This is especially of concern in the presence of risk factors including maternal diabetes, intrauterine grown restriction and high altitude.
Another concern stated by the ACOG is that delayed umbilical cord clamping "may be technically difficult in some circumstances."
Still, the WHO say late cord clamping is recommended for all births, and the improved iron status associated with it "may be particularly relevant for infants living in low-resource settings with reduced access to iron-rich foods."
The organization clearly states that early cord clamping - less than 1 minute after birth - is not advised unless the newborn is asphyxiated and needs to be moved for resuscitation.
Mon, Dec 08, 2014 @ 11:42 AM
Nursing students with previous caring experience are less likely to perform better academically and clinically than those who have none, research shows.
A study assessing the criteria for selecting nursing students found that high emotional intelligence did not mean students performed better on their courses.
Researchers also found that of the students who have withdrawn from their studies, nearly 60 per cent had previous caring experience.
The ongoing study, led by the University of Edinburgh, is tracking performance and emotional intelligence - the ability to recognise your own and other people's feelings and act accordingly - of nearly 900 nursing and midwifery students from the University of the West of Scotland and Edinburgh Napier University.
Researchers found, however, that performance improved with age and that female trainees scored significantly better than male counterparts.
The findings come after the 2013 Frances Report - which highlighted care failings at the Mid Staffordhire NHS Foundation Trust - recommended an emphasis on creating a more compassionate end empathetic culture in nursing.
As a result, aspiring nurses in England could potentially be required to spend a placement year as a carer before undertaking their training.
Lead researcher Rosie Stenhouse, lecturer in Nursing Studies at the University of Edinburgh, said: "The research should sound a note of caution to such pilot schemes. They are potentially expensive, politically motivated and not backed up by evidence."
Wed, Nov 26, 2014 @ 11:56 AM
By Marie Ellis
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - also known as Lou Gehrig's disease - is a condition that gradually attacks nerve cells that control our voluntary movement, leading to paralysis and death. In the US, a reported 30,000 individuals are living with the disease, but now, scientists have identified a fault in protein formation, which could be the origin of this condition.
The researchers, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have published their study on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in the journal Cell Stem Cell.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nobody knows for sure why ALS occurs, and there is currently no cure.
The researchers of this latest study, led by Su-Chun Zhang, senior author and neuroscientist at UW-Madison, say previously, a genetic mutation was discovered in a small group of patients with ALS, prompting scientists to transfer that gene to animals for drug treatment testing.
However, this approach has not yet worked. As such, Zhang and his team decided to study diseased human cells - called motor neurons - in lab dishes. These motor neurons are what direct muscles to contract, and Zhang explains this is where failures occur in ALS.
Discovery centers on faulty proteins inside motor neurons
Zhang was the first scientist to ever grow motor neurons from human embryonic stem cells around 10 years ago, and he has recently been transforming skin cells into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which are then transformed into motor neurons.
He explains that the iPS cells can be used as models for disease since they have many of the same characteristics as their donor cells.
"With iPS, you can take a cell from any patient, and grow up motor neurons that have ALS," Zhang explains. "That offers a new way to look at the basic disease pathology."
For their latest study, the researchers have focused on proteins that erect a transport structure - called a neurofilament - inside the motor neurons.
They say the neurofilament moves chemicals and cellular parts - including neurotransmitters - to far sides of the nerve cell.
Zhang explains that the motor neurons, for example, that control foot muscles are around 3 ft long, so they need to be moved a whole yard from the cell body to the spot where they can signal the muscles.
As such, one of the first signs of ALS in a patient who lacks this connection is paralysis of the feet and legs.
'Findings have implications for other neurodegenerative disorders'
Before now, scientists have understood that with ALS, so-called tangles - misshapen protein - along the nerve's paths block the route along the nerve fibers, which eventually results in the nerve fiber malfunctioning and dying.
The team's recent discovery, however, has to do with the source of these tangles, which lies in a shortage of one of three proteins in the neurofilament.
Zhang explains that the neurofilament plays both a structural and a functional role:
"Like the studs, joists and rafters of a house, the neurofilament is the backbone of the cell, but it's constantly changing. These proteins need to be shipped from the cell body, where they are produced, to the most distant part, and then be shipped back for recycling.
If the proteins cannot form correctly and be transported easily, they form tangles that cause a cascade of problems."
He says their discovery is that the origin of ALS is "misregulation of one step in the production of the neurofilament."
Additionally, he notes that similar tangles crop up with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases: "We got really excited at the idea that when you study ALS, you may be looking at the root of many neurodegenerative disorders."
Zhang and his team also observed that this misregulation happens very early, which is why it is highly likely that what they found is the origin ALS.
"Nobody knew this before, but we think if you can target this early step in pathology, you can potentially rescue the nerve cell," he says.
And as if this discovery is not exciting enough, the team also found a way to rescue the neural cells in the lab dishes, and when they "edited" the gene that orchestrates formation of the blundered protein, they found that the cells suddenly looked normal.
They report that they are currently testing a wide range of potential drugs, which brings hope to the domain of ALS research.
The CDC have a National ALS Registry, where patients with the condition can complete brief risk-factor surveys to help scientists defeat ALS.
Wed, Nov 26, 2014 @ 11:49 AM
The number of emergency department visits in the United States rose from about 130 million in 2010 to a record 136 million in 2011, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The findings also showed that fewer people were going to ERs with non-urgent medical needs: 96 percent of patients were identified as needing medical care within two hours of arriving at the ER. In 2010, that number was 92 percent, according to the research.
Sixty percent of patients arrived at the ER after normal business hours (after 5 p.m. on weekdays). One-third of visits were for patients on either end of the age spectrum -- younger than 15 or older than 65, the researchers found.
Almost 30 percent of visits were for injuries. The highest injury rates were among patients 75 and older, the study noted.
"The report also finds that there are large numbers of admitted patients who wait long times for inpatient beds," Dr. Michael Gerardi, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), said in an ACEP news release.
"Nearly two-thirds of patients waited two or more hours for beds in 2011, and nearly three-quarters of hospitals continued to board patients, even when the emergency department was critically overloaded. Hospitals must move admitted patients out of the emergency department faster to make room for the increasing number of people coming," he said.
It's believed that there will be about 140 million ER visits in 2014, according to the ACEP.
"The growth in patient demand aligns with what emergency physicians have been seeing and predicting: demand is going to increase," Gerardi said.
"Given that our nation's population is aging, and emergency departments have a critical role as the front line of responding to disasters and infectious disease outbreaks in America, such as what we saw with Ebola, we need to prepare for increased numbers of patients," he added.
Despite increasing use of ERs, most hospitals had not expanded their ERs as of 2011 and had no plans to expand them in the following two years, according to Gerardi.
"Emergency departments are essential to every community and must have adequate resources," he said. "They continue to be under severe stress and face soaring demands, despite the efficiency of caring for more than 136 million of the sickest patients each year using only 4 percent of the nation's health care dollar. This report is more evidence that we are going to need more resources, not less, in the future."
Mon, Nov 17, 2014 @ 12:17 PM
By John DeGaspari
Using the Internet to access health information may be out of reach for many older Americans, according to a study by researchers at the University of Michigan. According to the study, less than one-third of Americans age 65 and older use the Web. Within that age group less than 10 percent of those with low health literacy, or who lack the ability to navigate the healthcare system, go online for health-related matters.
The results of the study have been published in the Journal of Internal Medicine. Data was analyzed from the 2009 and 2010 Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative survey of older adults; about 1,400 of the participants were asked about how often they use the Internet for any purpose, and, in particular, how often they search for health and medical information.
Health literacy was found to be a significant predictor or what people do once they are online. Elderly Americans with low health literacy are less likely to use the Internet at all, according to the researcher; and if members of this group do surf the Web, it is not generally to search for medical or health information.
“In recent years, we have invested many resources in Web-based interventions to help improve people’s health, including electronic health records designed to help patients become more active participants in their care,” according to lead author of the study Helen Levy, Ph.D., research associate professor at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, in a prepared statement. “But many older Americans, especially those with low health literacy, may not be prepared for these tools.”
Senior author Kenneth Langa, M.D., a professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, cautions that as the Internet becomes more central to health literacy, older Americans face barriers that may sideline them. He recommends that “Programs need to consider interventions that target health literacy among older adults to help narrow the gap and reduce the risk of deepening disparities in health access and outcomes.”
Fri, Oct 24, 2014 @ 02:19 PM
By Robert Preidt
Cesarean delivery was the most common inpatient surgery in the United States in 2011 and was used in nearly one-third of all deliveries, research shows.
The new study found that 1.3 million babies were delivered by cesarean section in 2011. The findings also revealed wide variations in C-section rates at hospitals across the United States, but the reasons for such differences are unclear.
"We found that the variability in hospital cesarean rates was not driven by differences in maternal diagnoses or pregnancy complexity. This means there was significantly higher variation in hospital rates than would be expected based on women's health conditions," lead author Katy Kozhimannil, an assistant professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota, said in a university news release.
The researchers analyzed data from more than 1,300 hospitals in 46 states. They found that the overall rate of C-section was about 33 percent. Between hospitals, however, that rate ranged between 19 and 48 percent, according to the study.
For women who'd never previously had a C-section, the overall C-section rate was 22 percent. Depending on the hospital, that rate ranged between 11 percent and 36 percent, the researchers said.
C-section rates ranged from 8 percent to 32 percent among lower-risk women and from 56 percent to 92 percent among higher-risk women, according to the study published Oct. 21 in the journal PLoS Medicine.
The findings highlight the roles that hospitals' policies, practices and culture may have in influencing C-section rates, the study authors concluded.
"Women deserve evidence-based, consistent, high-quality maternity care, regardless of the hospital where they give birth, and these results indicate that we have a long way to go toward reaching this goal in the U.S.," Kozhimannil said in the news release.