Saturday, November 30, 2013

CDC Reports That Half of U.S. Children Diagnosed with ADHD Received Diagnosis By Age 6

a graph iconThis article is a treasure trove. I wonder how many of these children have had qustions asked about their sleep? - JR

CDC Reports That Half of U.S. Children Diagnosed with ADHD Received Diagnosis By Age 6

A new study published in JAACAP found that an estimated two million more children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) between 2003-04 and 2011-12. One million more U.S. children were taking medication for ADHD between 2003-04 and 2011-12.
ADHD is one of the most common neurobehavioral disorders of childhood. It often persists into adulthood. Children with ADHD may have trouble paying attention and/or controlling impulsive behaviors. Effective treatments for ADHD include medication, mental health treatment, or a combination of the two. When children diagnosed with ADHD receive proper treatment, they have the best chance of thriving at home, doing well at school, and making and keeping friends.

  •  The parent-reported prevalence of a history of an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis by a health care provider among U.S. school-aged children increased from 7.8% in 2003 to 11% in 2011, an increase of 42% in less than a decade.
  •  In 2011, the median age of ADHD diagnosis was approximately 6 years of age, but children reported by their parents as having more severe ADHD were diagnosed earlier.
  •  The percentage of US school-aged children with a parent-report of current medication treatment for ADHD increased from 4.8% in 2007 to 6.1% in 2011, an increase of 27% in approximately 4 years.
  •  More U.S. school-aged children were receiving ADHD treatment in 2011 than in 2007, but nearly 1 in 5 with current ADHD were not receiving either medication.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Why should EVERYONE Down Syndrome be proactive about sleep problems?

This study was performed on older adults looking at factors related to amyloid build-up. Amyloid deposition contributes to dementia. This study was NOT performed on Trisomy 21 but the neuopathology is similar. Until we have results on people with Down Syndrome...adequate sleep can't hurt. JR

Importance  Older adults commonly report disturbed sleep, and recent studies in humans and animals suggest links between sleep and Alzheimer disease biomarkers.

 Studies are needed that evaluate whether sleep variables are associated with neuroimaging evidence of β-amyloid (Aβ) deposition.
Objective  To determine the association between self-reported sleep variables and Aβ deposition in community-dwelling older adults.
Design, Setting, and Participants  Cross-sectional study of 70 adults (mean age, 76 [range, 53-91] years) from the neuroimaging substudy of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, a normative aging study.
Exposure  Self-reported sleep variables.
Main Outcomes and Measures  β-Amyloid burden, measured by carbon 11–labeled Pittsburgh compound B positron emission tomography distribution volume ratios (DVRs).
Results  After adjustment for potential confounders, reports of shorter sleep duration were associated with greater Aβ burden, measured by mean cortical DVR (B = 0.08 [95% CI, 0.03-0.14]; P = .005) and precuneus DVR (B = 0.11 [0.03-0.18]; P = .007). Reports of lower sleep quality were associated with greater Aβ burden measured by precuneus DVR (B = 0.08 [0.01-0.15]; P = .03).
Conclusions and Relevance  Among community-dwelling older adults, reports of shorter sleep duration and poorer sleep quality are associated with greater Aβ burden. Additional studies with objective sleep measures are needed to determine whether sleep disturbance causes or accelerates Alzheimer disease.

article here

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Moms with epilepsy should breastfeed their infants

A study shows that breastfeeding mothers with epilepsy should continue to breastfeed their children regardless of taking antiepileptic drugs while breastfeeding. JR

The study aims to determine whether signs of impaired development appear already during the first months of life in children exposed prenatally to antiepileptic drugs, and to explore potential adverse effects of antiepileptic drug exposure through breastfeeding. Prenatal exposure to antiepileptic drugs was associated with impaired fine motor skills already at age 6 months, especially when the child was exposed to multiple drugs. There were no harmful effects of breastfeeding. Women with epilepsy should be encouraged to breastfeed their children irrespective of antiepileptic drug treatment.
  • Mothers at 13 to 17 weeks of pregnancy were recruited in the population-based, prospective Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study from 1999 to 2009.
  • The mothers reported on their child’s motor and social skills, language, and behavior using items from standardized screening tools at 6 months (n=78744), 18 months (n=61351), and 36 months (n=44147) of age.
  • The mothers also provided detailed information on breastfeeding during the first year.
  • The risk of adverse development in children according to maternal or paternal epilepsy was estimated as the odds ratio with corresponding 95% confidence interval, adjusted for maternal age, parity, education, smoking, breastfeeding, depression/anxiety, folate supplementation, and congenital malformation in the child.
  • At age 6 months, infants of mothers using antiepileptic drugs (n=223) had a higher risk of impaired fine motor skills compared with the reference group (11.5% vs 4.8%, respectively; odds ratio=2.1; 95% CI, 1.3-3.2).
  • Use of multiple antiepileptic drugs compared with the reference group was associated with adverse outcome for both fine motor skills (25.0% vs 4.8%, respectively; odds ratio=4.3; 95% CI, 2.0-9.1) and social skills (22.5% vs 10.2%, respectively; odds ratio=2.6; 95% CI, 1.2-5.5).
  • Continuous breastfeeding in children of women using antiepileptic drugs was associated with less impaired development at ages 6 and 18 months compared with those with no breastfeeding or breastfeeding for less than 6 months.
  • At 36 months, prenatal antiepileptic drug exposure was associated with adverse development regardless of breastfeeding status during the first year.
  • Children of women with epilepsy who did not use antiepileptic drugs and children of fathers with epilepsy had normal development at 6 months.
Read more here

Seasoning your Turkey? Try some Tumeric. It may have antidepressant or antioxidant effects.

 2012 Jun 1;26(6):477-90.

Antioxidants as antidepressants: fact or fiction?


Department of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Molise, Campobasso, Italy.


Depression is a medical condition with a complex biological pattern of aetiology, involving genetic and epigenetic factors, along with different environmental stressors. Recent evidence suggests that oxidative stress processes might play a relevant role in the pathogenic mechanism(s) underlying many major psychiatric disorders, including depression. Reactive oxygen and nitrogen species have been shown to modulate levels and activity of noradrenaline (norepinephrine), serotonin, dopamine and glutamate, the principal neurotransmitters involved in the neurobiology ofdepression. Major depression has been associated with lowered concentrations of several endogenous antioxidant compounds, such as vitamin E, zinc and coenzyme Q10, or enzymes, such as glutathione peroxidase, and with an impairment of the total antioxidant status. These observations introduce new potential targets for the development of therapeutic interventions based on antioxidant compounds. The present review focuses on the possible role of oxidative stress processes in the pathogenesis of depression. The therapeutic potential of antioxidant compounds as a co-adjuvant treatment to conventional antidepressants is discussed. For instance, N-acetyl-cysteine has been shown to have a significant benefit on depressivesymptoms in a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Additionally, curcumin, the yellow pigment of curry, has been shown to strongly interfere with neuronal redox homeostasis in the CNS and to possess antidepressant activity in various animal models of depression, also thanks to its ability to inhibit monoamine oxidases. There is an urgent need to develop better tolerated and more effective treatments for depressive disorders and several antioxidant treatments appear promising and deserve further study.
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Mixing of the senses is more common in autistic children

A condition known as synaesthesia where the senses are mixed was found to be more common in children with autism.

People with autism are more likely to also have synaesthesia, suggests new research in the journal Molecular Autism.
Synaesthesia involves people experiencing a 'mixing of the senses', for example, seeing colours when they hear sounds, or reporting that musical notes evoke different tastes. Autism is diagnosed when a person struggles with social relationships and communication, and shows unusually narrow interests and resistance to change. The team of scientists from Cambridge University found that whereas synaesthesia only occurred in 7.2% of typical individuals, it occurred in 18.9% of people with autism.
On the face of it, this is an unlikely result, as autism and synaesthesia seem as if they should not share anything. But at the level of the brain, synaesthesia involves atypical connections between brain areas that are not usually wired together (so that a sensation in one channel automatically triggers a perception in another). Autism has also been postulated to involve over-connectivity of neurons (so that the person over-focuses on small details but struggles to keep track of the big picture).
The scientists tested -- and confirmed -- the prediction that if both autism and synaesthesia involve neural over-connectivity, then synaesthesia might be disproportionately common in autism.
The team, led by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen at the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University, tested 164 adults with an autism spectrum condition and 97 adults without autism. All volunteers were screened for synaesthesia. Among the 31 people with autism who also had synaesthesia, the most common forms of the latter were 'grapheme-colour' (18 of them reported black and white letters being seen as coloured) and 'sound-colour' (21 of them reported a sound triggering a visual experience of colour). Another 18 of them reported either tastes, pains, or smells triggering a visual experience of colour.
Professor Baron-Cohen said: "I have studied both autism and synaesthesia for over 25 years and I had assumed that one had nothing to do with the other. These findings will re-focus research to examine common factors that drive brain development in these traditionally very separate conditions. An example is the mechanism 'apoptosis,' the natural pruning that occurs in early development, where we are programmed to lose many of our infant neural connections. In both autism and synaesthesia apoptosis may not occur at the same rate, so that these connections are retained beyond infancy."
Professor Simon Fisher, a member of the team, and Director of the Language and Genetics Department at Nijmegen's Max Planck Institute, added: "Genes play a substantial role in autism and scientists have begun to pinpoint some of the individual genes involved. Synaesthesia is also thought to be strongly genetic, but the specific genes underlying this are still unknown. This new research gives us an exciting new lead, encouraging us to search for genes which are shared between these two conditions, and which might play a role in how the brain forms or loses neural connections."
Donielle Johnson, who carried out the study as part of her Master's degree in Cambridge, said: "People with autism report high levels of sensory hyper-sensitivity. This new study goes one step further in identifying synaesthesia as a sensory issue that has been overlooked in this population. This has major implications for educators and clinicians designing autism-friendly learning environments."
Read more here

Insomnia increases risk of death

A study finds a link between insomnia and increased mortality risk.

Insomnia, the most common sleep disorder, affects up to one-third of the population in the United States. In new findings, researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) have found that some insomnia symptoms are associated with an increased risk of mortality in men. These findings are published online in Circulation and will appear in an upcoming print issue.
"Insomnia is a common health issue, particularly in older adults, but the link between this common sleep disorder and its impact on the risk of death has been unclear," said Yanping Li, PhD, a research fellow in the Channing Division of Network Medicine at BWH and lead author of the paper. "Our research shows that among men who experience specific symptoms of insomnia, there is a modest increase risk in death from cardiovascular-related issues."
Specifically, researchers report that difficulty falling sleep and non-restorative sleep were both associated with a higher risk of mortality, particularly mortality related to cardiovascular disease.
Researchers followed more than 23,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study who self-reported insomnia symptoms for a period of six years. Beginning in 2004 through 2010, researchers documented 2025 deaths using information from government and family sources. After adjusting for lifestyle factors, age and other chronic conditions, researchers found that men who reported difficulty initiating sleep and non-restorative sleep had a 55 percent and 32 percent increased risk of CVD-related mortality over the six year follow up, respectively, when compared to men who did not report these insomnia-related symptoms.
"We know that sleep is important for cardiovascular health and many studies have linked poor or insufficient sleep with increased risk factors for cardiovascular-related diseases," said Xiang Gao, MD, PhD, a researcher in the Channing Division of Network Medicine at BWH and Harvard School of Public Health and senior author of this study. "Now we know that not only can poor sleep impact disease risk, but it may also impact our longevity. While further research is necessary to confirm these findings, there is overwhelming evidence that practicing good sleep hygiene and prioritizing sufficient and restful sleep is an often overlooked but important modifiable risk factor in overall health."
Read more here

Too much computer time makes autistic children sleep less

Autistic children are prone to sleep disorders, and excess screen time could add to the likelihood of sleep disorders in these children.

Kids with autism and related disorders are prone to sleep disturbances but a new study finds that screen time, especially in the bedroom, may make their sleep problems worse.
When researchers compared boys with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) to other boys, they found that all the kids with bedroom access to media slept fewer hours, but the relationship was twice as strong for the boys with autism.
"In-room media access was associated with about 1.5 fewer hours of sleep per night in the group with autism," said Christopher R. Engelhardt, who led the study at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
"This association can potentially be problematic, particularly if the reduction in sleep interferes with other daily activities, such as school, homework, interactions with other people, or driving," he told Reuters Health in an email.
Past studies suggest that up to 80% of kids with autism, and related conditions like Asperger's disease, experience sleep troubles, including difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep through the night.
Hormone melatonin
Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also are known to have a high rate of sleep disturbances. With both conditions, it's unclear why sleep is so difficult.
Theories include a disruption in sleep-wake cycles that are regulated by the hormone melatonin, which is often deficient in kids with ASDs, Engelhardt and his colleagues write in Paediatrics.  Because kids with autism spectrum disorders, like those with ADHD, also tend to spend a lot of time watching TV and playing video or computer games, the researchers wondered whether that could be contributing to their sleep problems.
So they recruited the parents of 49 boys with autism spectrum disorders, 38 with ADHD and 41 comparison boys with typical development to fill out questionnaires about their children's bedroom screen access and sleep patterns.
 All the kids were between ages eight and 17. Boys with autism who had TV, computers or video games in their bedrooms got less sleep than all the other boys, including boys with autism who didn't have media in their bedrooms.
Limiting electronics
Without a TV in their room, boys with autism spent an average of about nine hours sleeping, compared to less than eight hours among kids with an ASD and a bedroom TV.
In contrast, bedroom TVs didn't seem to make a difference for boys with ADHD or typical development. Boys with autism with computers in their rooms slept nearly two hours less than boys with autism and no bedroom computer.
A lot of time spent playing video games, regardless of where they were located, was also linked to shorter sleep times among boys with ASDs. Even for typical children, too much time with TV or video games has been linked to attention problems, hyperactivity, arguments and physical fights, Engelhardt said. "We can't say that access to a TV causes less sleep," only that the two are linked for some kids, he said.
Last month, the American Academy of Paediatrics called for limiting screen time for all kids to one or two hours per day. ”This is a good recommendation for all children," Dr Beth Marlow, Burry Chair in Cognitive Childhood Development and director of the Sleep Disorders Division at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre in Nashville, Tennessee.
"Following this recommendation for kids with (autism spectrum) and ADHD is good, although children with (autism spectrum) or ADHD who are still having difficulty with sleep despite limiting electronics really deserve a sleep evaluation by their paediatrician or sleep specialist.
Time distortion
"Sleep troubles can also stem from anxiety, sleep apnoea, pain that the child might not be able to express, gastrointestinal problems or seizures, she said.
For typically developing kids, bedroom TV access doesn't usually seem to cut into sleep. "However, (Engelhardt's) finding for teens with ASD concurs with our clinical impressions – that these teens have difficulty 'switching off'' videogames," Michael Gradisar said.
Gradisar is a clinical psychologist who studies technology use and sleep, especially among teens, at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia. "Many teens have a distorted sense of time passing when playing videogames, however, it may be that this time distortion is stronger for teens with ASD," he said.
Parents can have a tough time managing how much their children play games or watch TV, he said. "It may take quite some time to do, but one option is for parents to introduce other hobbies and activities into their teens lives, so that video gaming eventually occupies less time."
Engaging features
"People with autism tend to spend more time with media outlets, researchers think, because the electronic worlds have engaging audio and visual features and their social interactions are easy relative to real life interactions."
This doesn't necessarily mean that parents should take TVs or video games out of their autistic children's rooms, but might consider limiting or monitoring media consumption, he said. "Screen media can certainly be good for kids with autism," he said.
"Scientists have long known that video games are great at teaching and reinforcing certain behaviours, so it's possible that these games can be used to adjust and shape the types of behaviours generally valued by society, such as behaviours intended to help others."
Read more here

Sunday, November 24, 2013

What changes quality of life in a child with epilepsy? An action plan for families and neurologists.

This study looks at children recently diagnosed with epilepsy and determines their health-related quality of life which can be changed by medications, cognitive problems or behavior, parental depression and family demands.

The objectives of this study were to document trajectories of health–related quality of life (HRQL) and to identify predictors of the trajectory group in children with new–onset epilepsy. Results suggested that children with epilepsy are not homogenous but rather consist of groups with different trajectories and unique predictors of HRQL. Problems associated with child behavior and cognition were the strongest predictors identified. Given that several risk factors are modifiable, it is important to examine these as potential targets within a family–centered framework to improve HRQL of children with new–onset epilepsy.
  • Data were obtained from the Health Related Quality of Life in Children with Epilepsy Study, a prospective multisite study of children 4–12 years old with new–onset epilepsy followed for 24 months.
  • Health–related quality of life was measured using the Quality of Life in Childhood Epilepsy questionnaire.
  • Trajectories of HRQL were investigated using latent class trajectory modeling.
  • Multinomial logistic regression was used to identify child, parent, and family predictors of HRQL trajectories.
  • A total of 374 families responded at baseline and 283 (76%) completed the study.
  • Five HRQL trajectories were observed: low–increasing (4%), moderate–decreasing (12%), moderate–increasing (22%), high–increasing (32%), and high–stable (30%).
  • Many children in the low–increasing, moderate–increasing, high–increasing, and high–stable had clinically meaningful improvements in HRQL: 82%, 47%, 63%, and 44%, respectively.
  • In contrast, the majority of children in the moderate–decreasing group (56%) experienced clinically meaningful declines in their HRQL.
  • Factors predicting trajectories were number of antiepileptic drugs prescribed, presence of comorbid behavior or cognitive problems, parent depression, and family functioning and demands.
Read more here

Poverty in children and brain development - A Neuro-Thanksgiving Consideration

A Neuro-Thanksgiving Consideration

This study looks at a link between poverty during early childhood and impaired brain development. JR

Poverty in early childhood appears to be associated with smaller brain volumes measured through imaging at school age and early adolescence, according to a study published byJAMA Pediatrics, a JAMA Network publication.
Poverty is known to be associated with a higher risk of poor cognitive outcomes and school performance, according to the study background.
Joan Luby, M.D., of the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, and colleagues investigated the effect of poverty on brain development by examining white and cortical gray matter, as well as hippocampus and amygdala volumes in a group of children ages 6 to 12 years who were followed since preschool. The 145 children were recruited from a larger group of children who participated in a preschool depression study.
The authors report that "exposure to poverty during early childhood is associated with smaller white mater, cortical gray matter, and hippocampal and amygdala volumes," the authors write.
Study findings also indicate that the effects of poverty on hippocampal volume were mediated (influenced) by caregiving and stressful life events.
"The finding that the effects of poverty on hippocampal development are mediated through caregiving and stressful life events further underscores the importance of high-quality early childhood caregiving, a task that can be achieved through parenting education and support, as well as through preschool programs that provide high-quality supplementary caregiving and safe haven to vulnerable young children," the study concludes. 
Read more here

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Study: Teenagers who go to sleep late have lower grades

A study shows that teenagers with late bedtimes have lower grades than those who go to sleep earlier.

Teens with late bedtimes during the school year and schooldays that start early have lower academic performance and are at risk for later emotional distress. A new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health provides further evidence for a growing body of research that supports a movement to delay school start times for adolescents.
"Going to bed after 11:30 pm, particularly in younger adolescents, predicted worse cumulative grade point average (GPA) at high school graduation and more emotional distress in the college years and beyond," said the study's lead author Lauren D. Asarnow, MA, a doctoral student in the department of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.
The study gathered data on sleep and the number of hours slept from 2,700 teens age 13 to 18 participating in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health in two cohorts, one in 1995, the second in 1996. In 2001-2002, as respondents aged, data on academic performance and self-reported emotional health were collected for longitudinal comparison. The overall goal of the study was to examine the relationship between the sleep/circadian patterns of high school adolescents in a nationally representative sample, their overall academic performance in high school and rates of emotional distress reported post graduation.
For both high school cohorts, 23 percent of participants reported going to bed at 11:15 pm or later. By the time these teens reached graduation and college age, late school year bedtimes in high school predicted both lower cumulative GPA at graduation and more emotional distress between age 18 and 26. The researchers noted previous research found that adolescents who prefer late activities and bedtimes (a pattern of behavior often referred to as an evening circadian preference) were tested in the morning; they performed worse on cognitive tasks.
Asarnow urged parents to help youngsters get to bed earlier and added that a teen's sleep behavior is highly modifiable with proper support. However, shifting a teen's bedtime from a late to an earlier hour can be hard, she added, in part because for 30 percent to 40 percent of teens, delayed bedtimes have a biological basis tied to the onset and progress of puberty. Furthermore, academic pressure, habits around technology use and the bedtimes of friends also influence a teen's choice to turn in or stay up late.
Timothy Monk, Ph.D., director of the Human Chronobiology Research Program at the University of Pittsburgh agreed that the need to rise very early for school can put students at risk for underperformance academically and for other problems tied to a lack of sleep. "An early school start time both limits the sleeping time of the student and asks him or her to learn at what is close to the nadir of their circadian cycle."
Read more here

Friday, November 22, 2013

Coffee six hours before bedtime can reduce sleep by an hour

A study shows that coffee consumed six hours before bed can reduce sleep time by an hour or more.

A new study has revealed that caffeine consumption even six hours before bedtime can have significant, disruptive effects on sleep.
The study led by Christopher Drake, PhD, investigator at the Henry Sleep Disorders and Research Center, showed that about 2-3 cups of coffee taken at bedtime, three and even six hours prior to bedtime significantly disrupts sleep.
Even when caffeine was consumed six hours before going to bed, objectively measured total sleep time was dramatically reduced (more than one hour).
Drake said that drinking a big cup of coffee on the way home from work can lead to negative effects on sleep just as if someone were to consume caffeine closer to bedtime. People tend to be less likely to detect the disruptive effects of caffeine on sleep when taken in the afternoon.
Drake and his research team studied 12 healthy normal sleepers, as determined by a physical examination and clinical interview. Participants were instructed to maintain their normal sleep schedules.
They were given three pills a day for four days, taking one pill at six, three and zero hours prior to scheduled bedtime. One of the pills contained 400 mg of caffeine, and the other two were a placebo. On one of the four days, all three pills were a placebo. Sleep disturbance was measured subjectively with a standard sleep diary and objectively using an in-home sleep monitor.
The results suggest that caffeine generally should be avoided after 5 p.m. in order to allow healthy sleep.
Read more here

Less concussions occur at higher altitudes in high school sports

An interesting study claims that the likelihood of a concussion in high school sports is lower at higher altitudes.

According to a recent study done by doctors at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, high school athletes who play collision sports at higher altitudes are less likely to suffer from concussions than those who play at lower altitudes.
The doctors who were involved in the study recognized that prior research indicated that the volume and/or pressure of intracranial fluid, which acts as a cushion to protect the brain inside of the skull, is affected by one's altitude and that it may be associated with the likelihood and/or severity of a concussion. They hypothesized that when adjusting to higher altitudes, physiological responses increase intracranial fluid volume and these responses would provide a "tightened fit" which should help protect the brain from concussions like bubble wrap.
Data on concussions and more than 20 million athlete exposures were gathered between 2005 -2012 from nearly 500 high schools across the US. The data focused on concussion occurrence in a variety of sports including but not limited to boys' and girls' soccer, volleyball, basketball, cheerleading and boys' football and ice hockey. The altitude of the participating schools ranged from 7 to 6903 ft.
When concussion rates were examined relative to altitude, sequential elevations in altitude above sea level were associated with a reduction in concussion rates overall. Specifically, high school sports played at higher altitudes demonstrated a 31 percent reduction in the incidence of total reported concussions. Further analysis showed that concussion rates at increased altitude for football players were reduced by 30 percent for overall exposures, 27 percent for competition exposures and 28 percent for practice exposures.
Dr. Greg Myer, Director of Research, Sports Medicine, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, says that "this research shows us that the physiological responses to altitude may be associated with a reduction in sports-related concussion rates, especially in collision sports."
He goes on to say that future research that focuses on other techniques that can optimize intracranial fluid volume (via jugular compression) will play an important role in the determination of the most effective approaches to prevent sport related concussion in athletes.
Read more here

Why technology doesn't belong in a child's bedroom

This article discusses why technology in a child's bedroom is detrimental to their sleep quality.

Technology such as computers and smartphones in children's bedrooms can cause anxiety and sleep loss, scientists at Canada's Dalhousie University report.

Having technology such as televisions, smartphones and game consoles in the bedroom teaches the brain to see the room as an entertainment experience rather than a place for quiet and rest, they said.

Playing violent video games in the bedroom conditions the brain to see it as a place of danger, leading it to stay in a state of alert rather than resting, they added.

"One of the biggest culprits for inadequate and disturbed sleep is technology," Dalhousie researcher Jennifer Vriend, the study's lead author, said.

"Many teenagers sleep with their phones and they are awakened regularly by it ringing or vibrating throughout the night when they get a text, email or Facebook message.

"Having televisions and game consoles in the bedroom is also a problem," she said. "It sets up the brain to see the room as an entertainment zone rather than a quiet, sleepy environment."

Losing just one hour's sleep can reduce a child's performance at school, the study published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology found.

"Even modest differences in sleep duration, accumulated over a few days, can affect critical cognitive and emotional functions in children," the study authors wrote.

Read more here

Study: Exercise improves brain activity and memory in adults

A study claims that aerobic exercise has many benefits for adults including improved brain activity and memory in addition to physical fitness.

A new study conducted by researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas published online in the open-access journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience found that engaging in a physical exercise regimen helps healthy aging adults improve their memory, brain health and physical fitness. This finding is significant considering that among adults 50 and older, "staying mentally sharp" outranks social security and physical health as the top priority and concern in the United States.
"Science has shown that aging decreases mental efficiency and memory decline is the number one cognitive complaint of older adults," said Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D., founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth, Dee Wyly Distinguished University Chair and lead author of the paper. "This research shows the tremendous benefit of aerobic exercise on a person's memory and demonstrates that aerobic exercise can reduce both the biological and cognitive consequences of aging."
For the study, sedentary adults ages 57-75 were randomized into a physical training or a wait-list control group. The physical training group participated in supervised aerobic exercise on a stationary bike or treadmill for one hour, three times a week for 12 weeks. Participants' cognition, resting cerebral blood flow, and cardiovascular fitness were assessed at three time points: before beginning the physical exercise regimen, mid-way through at 6 weeks, and post-training at 12 weeks.
"By measuring brain blood flow non-invasively using arterial spin labeling (ASL) MRI, we can now begin to detect brain changes much earlier than before," said Sina Aslan, Ph.D., founder and president of Advance MRI and collaborator on the study. "One key region where we saw increase in brain blood flow was the anterior cingulate, indicating higher neuronal activity and metabolic rate. The anterior cingulate has been linked to superior cognition in late life."
Exercisers who improved their memory performance also showed greater increase in brain blood flow to the hippocampus, the key brain region affected by Alzheimer's disease. Chapman pointed out that, using noninvasive brain imaging techniques, brain changes were identified earlier than memory improvements, implicating brain blood flow as a promising and sensitive metric of brain health gains across treatment regimens.
"Physical exercise may be one of the most beneficial and cost-effective therapies widely available to everyone to elevate memory performance," Chapman said. "These findings should motivate adults of all ages to start exercising aerobically."
Chapman cautioned that while physical exercise is associated with a selective or regional brain blood flow, it did not produce a change in global brain blood flow.
"In another recent study, we have shown that complex mental training increases whole brain blood flow as well as regional brain blood flow across key brain networks," Chapman said. "The combination of physical and mental exercise may be the best health measures to improve overall cognitive brain health. We have just begun to test the upper boundaries of how we can enhance our brain's performance into late life. To think we can alter and improve the basic structure of the mature brain through aerobic exercise and complex thinking should inspire us to challenge our thinking and get moving at any age."
Read more here

Social status can change brain activity

A person's social status can alter their brain activity as well as their physical and mental health.

 New studies released today reveal links between social status and specific brain structures and activity, particularly in the context of social stress. The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2013, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world's largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.
Using human and animal models, these studies may help explain why position in social hierarchies strongly influences decision-making, motivation, and altruism, as well as physical and mental health. Understanding social decision-making and social ladders may also aid strategies to enhance cooperation and could be applied to everyday situations from the classroom to the boardroom.
Today's new findings show that:
  • Adult rats living in disrupted environments produce fewer new brain cells than rats in stable societies, supporting theories that unstable conditions impair mental health and cognition
  • People who have many friends have certain brain regions that are bigger and better connected than those with fewer friends. It's unknown whether their brains were predisposed to social engagement or whether larger social networks prompted brain development
  • In situations where monkeys can potentially cooperate to improve their mutual reward, certain groups of brain cells work to accurately predict the responses of other monkeys
  • Following extreme social stress, enhancing brain changes associated with depression can have an anti-depressant effect in mice
Other recent findings discussed show that:
  • Defeats heighten sensitivity to social hierarchies and may exacerbate brain activity related to social anxiety
"Social subordination and social instability have been associated with an increased incidence of mental illness in humans," said press conference moderator Larry Young, PhD, of Emory University, an expert in brain functions involved with social behavior. "We now have a better picture of how these situations impact the brain. While this information could lead to new treatments, it also calls on us to evaluate how we construct social hierarchies -- whether in the workplace or school -- and their impacts on human well-being."
Read more here