PsychCentral – Brain Blogger Health and Science Blog Covering Brain Topics Sat, 30 Dec 2017 16:30:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 New Fibromyalgia Treatment: Emotional Awareness and Expression Therapy Mon, 02 Oct 2017 15:25:59 +0000 Psychotherapy that encourages addressing emotional experiences related to trauma, conflict, and relationship problems has been found helpful for people with the chronic pain condition fibromyalgia.In the randomized clinical trial at Wayne State University in Detroit, 230 adults with fibromyalgia received one of three treatments. Each was presented for eight weekly sessions to small groups of patients.

The new therapy, called Emotional Awareness and Expression Therapy (EAET), helps patients view their pain and other symptoms as stemming from changeable neural pathways in the brain that are strongly influenced by emotions, the researchers explain.

EAET helps patients process emotional experiences, such as disclosing important struggles, learning how to adaptively express important feelings—especially anger and sadness, but also gratitude, compassion, and forgiveness—and empowering people to be more honest and direct in relationships that have been conflicted or problematic, according to the researchers.

The EAET intervention was compared to both an educational intervention, as well as the gold standard psychological approach in the field, cognitive behavioral therapy. Six months after treatments ended, patients were evaluated for the severity and extent of their pain and other problems that people with fibromyalgia often experience.

Patients who received EAET had better outcomes—reduced widespread pain, physical impairment, attention and concentration problems, anxiety, and depression, and more positive emotions and life satisfaction—than patients who received the education intervention, the researchers report.

More than twice as many people in EAET (34.8 percent) reported that they were “much better” or “very much better” than before treatment, compared to 15.4 percent of education patients.

An important additional finding was that the new emotion therapy also had greater benefits than cognitive behavior therapy in reducing widespread pain and in the number of patients who achieved at least 50 percent pain reduction, the researchers point out.

Mark A. Lumley, Ph.D., a professor of psychology said:

Many people with fibromyalgia have experienced adversity in their lives, including victimization, family problems, and internal conflicts, all of which create important emotions that are often suppressed or avoided. Emerging neuroscience research suggests that this can contribute strongly to pain and other physical symptoms.

We developed and tested an approach that tries to help people overcome these emotional and relationship problems and reduce their symptoms, rather than just help people manage or accept their fibromyalgia. Although this treatment does not help all people with fibromyalgia, many patients found it to be very helpful, and some had dramatic improvements in their lives and their health.

The Wayne State researchers collaborated with a team of researchers from the University of Michigan Medical Center led by David A. Williams, Ph.D., a professor of anesthesiology.

The study was published in the journal PAIN.

This guest article originally appeared on New Therapy Technique Offers Hope to Those with Fibromyalgia by Janice Wood.


Lumley, M., Schubiner, H., Lockhart, N., Kidwell, K., Harte, S., Clauw, D., & Williams, D. (2017). Emotional awareness and expression therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and education for fibromyalgia. PAIN, 1. DOI: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001036.

Image via stevepb/Pixabay.

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How Ketamine Acts on the Brain Fri, 29 Sep 2017 15:30:23 +0000 Ketamine is a medication mainly used for starting and maintaining anesthesia although it has also been used to provide rapid relief of treatment resistant depression.

The ability to rapidly stabilize severely depressed patients has been demonstrated in several studies and has led researchers to search for the exact mechanism by which ketamine works.

The effort is important as ketamine is sometimes illicitly used for its psychedelic properties and could also impede memory and other brain functions.

The multiple actions of ketamine has spurred scientists to identify new drugs that would safely replicate its antidepressant response without the unwanted side effects.

Now, emerging research from University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center scientists has identified a key protein that helps trigger ketamine’s rapid antidepressant effects in the brain. This is a crucial step to developing alternative treatments to the controversial drug being dispensed in a growing number of clinics across the country.

Researchers from the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute have now answered a question vital to guiding future research: What proteins in the brain does ketamine target to achieve its effects?

As Dr. Lisa Monteggia, Professor of Neuroscience at UT Southwestern’s O’Donnell Brain Institute states:

Now that we have a target in place, we can study the pathway and develop drugs that safely induce the antidepressant effect.

The study published in Nature shows that ketamine blocks a protein responsible for a range of normal brain functions. The blocking of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor creates the initial antidepressant reaction, and a metabolite of ketamine is responsible for extending the duration of the effect.

The blocking of the receptor also induces many of ketamine’s hallucinogenic responses. The drug—used for decades as an anesthetic—can distort the senses and impair coordination.

But if taken with proper medical care, ketamine may help severely depressed or suicidal patients in need of a quick, effective treatment, Dr. Monteggia said.

Studies have shown ketamine can stabilize patients within a couple of hours, compared to other antidepressants that often take a few weeks to produce a response—if a response is induced at all.

As explained by Dr. Monteggia:

Patients are demanding ketamine, and they are willing to take the risk of potential side effects just to feel better. This demand is overriding all the questions we still have about ketamine. How often can you have an infusion? How long can it last? There are a lot of aspects regarding how ketamine acts that are still unclear.

Researchers will work to answer these questions as they plan two clinical trials with ketamine, including an effort to administer the drug through a nasal spray as opposed to intravenous infusions.

The results of these trials will have major implications for the millions of depressed patients seeking help, in particular those who have yet to find a medication that works.

A major national study UT Southwestern led more than a decade ago (STAR*D) yielded insight into the prevalence of the problem: Up to a third of depressed patients don’t improve upon taking their first medication, and about 40% of people who start taking antidepressants stop taking them within three months.

Ketamine, due to the potential side effects, is mainly being explored as a treatment only after other antidepressants have failed. But for patients on the brink of giving up, waiting weeks to months to find the right therapy may not be an option.

Dr. Monteggia touches on expected future developments, where:

Ketamine opens the door to understanding how to achieve rapid action and to stabilize people quickly. Because the (NMDA) receptor that is the target of ketamine is not involved in how other classical serotonin-based antidepressants work, our study opens up a new avenue of drug discovery.

This guest article originally appeared on Researchers Learn How Ketamine Acts on the Brain by Rick Nauert PhD.

Suzuki, K., Nosyreva, E., Hunt, K., Kavalali, E., & Monteggia, L. (2017). Effects of a ketamine metabolite on synaptic NMDAR function. Nature, 546(7659), E1-E3. Doi: 10.1038/nature22084

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Ketamine for Rapid Treatment of Depression Wed, 27 Sep 2017 15:30:01 +0000 A team of researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently discovered why the drug ketamine may act as a rapid antidepressant.

Ketamine is best known as an illicit, psychedelic club drug. Often referred to as “Special K” or a “horse tranquilizer” by the media, it has been around since the 1960s and is a staple anesthetic in emergency rooms and burn centers. In the last 10 years, studies have shown that it can reverse — sometimes within hours or even minutes — the kind of severe, suicidal depression that traditional antidepressants can’t treat.

Researchers writing in the August 2010 issue of Archives of General Psychiatry reported that people in a small study who had treatment-resistant bipolar disorder experienced relief from depression symptoms in as little as 40 minutes after getting an intravenous dose of ketamine. Eighteen of these people had previously been unsuccessfully treated with at least one antidepressant medication and a mood stabilizer; the average number of medications they had tried unsuccessfully was seven. Within 40 minutes, 9 of 16 (56 percent) of the participants receiving ketamine had at least a 50 percent reduction in symptoms, and 2 of 16 (13 percent) had full remission and became symptom-free. The response lasted an average of about a week.

In a small 2006 NIMH study, one of the first to look at ketamine for depression, 18 treatment-resistant, depressed (unipolar) patients were randomly selected to receive either a single intravenous dose of ketamine or a placebo. Depression symptoms improved within one day in 71 percent of those who were given ketamine, and 29 percent of the patients became nearly symptom-free in a day. Thirty-five percent of patients who received ketamine still showed benefits seven days later.

In the most recent study published online in the journal Nature in May 2016, researchers discovered that a chemical byproduct, or metabolite, is created as the body breaks down ketamine. The metabolite reversed depression-like behaviors in mice without triggering any of the anesthetic, dissociative, or addictive side effects associated with ketamine.

As put by Carlos Zarate, MD, of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and a study coauthor and pioneer of research using ketamine to treat depression:

This discovery fundamentally changes our understanding of how this rapid antidepressant mechanism works, and holds promise for development of more robust and safer treatments. By using a team approach, researchers were able to reverse-engineer ketamine’s workings from the clinic to the lab to pinpoint what makes it so unique.”

In response to the Nature report, Sara Solovitch of The Washington Post wrote that:

experts are calling [ketamine] the most significant advance in mental health in more than half a century.

She reported that many academic medical centers, including Yale University, the University of California in San Diego, the Mayo Clinic, and the Cleveland Clinic, have all begun offering ketamine treatments off-label for severe depression.

It all sounds too good to be true, right?

The Drawbacks of Ketamine

The predominant drawback of ketamine is the lack of data.

There haven’t been enough clinical trials on the drug to assure its safety, and there’s a lack of information on the long-term effects of its use.

Ketamine’s effects are also short-lived. To be used as an effective antidepressant, it would need to be administered regularly, which leads to concerns about addiction, tolerance, and, again, long-term effects. The data that we do have on long-term use comes from people who have taken ketamine recreationally, as well as those who have used it to treat chronic pain.

One 2014 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology included among possible side effects, psychedelic symptoms (hallucinations and panic attacks), nausea, cardiovascular stimulation, memory defects, and bladder and renal complications.

Still, the drug holds promise for uncovering new ways of treating depression and offers hope for the most severe and complicated mood disorders that baffle psychiatrists today.

Richard J. Hodes, MD, director of the National Institute on Aging, commented on the most recent NIH study and the importance of furthering the research:

Unraveling the mechanism mediating ketamine’s antidepressant activity is an important step in the process of drug development. New approaches are critical for the treatment of depression, especially for older adults and for patients who do not respond to current medications.

Join Project Hope & Beyond, the new depression community.

This guest article appeared on Ketamine: A Miracle Drug for Depression? and was originally posted on Sanity Break at Everyday Health by Therese J. Borchard.


Diazgranados, N., Ibrahim, L., Brutsche, N., Newberg, A., Kronstein, P., & Khalife, S. et al. (2010). A Randomized Add-on Trial of an N-methyl-D-aspartate Antagonist in Treatment-Resistant Bipolar Depression. Archives Of General Psychiatry, 67(8), 793. DOI: archgenpsychiatry.2010.90.

Zanos, P., Moaddel, R., Morris, P., Georgiou, P., Fischell, J., & Elmer, G. et al. (2016). NMDAR inhibition-independent antidepressant actions of ketamine metabolites. Nature, 533(7604), 481-486. DOI: 10.1038/nature17998.

Zarate, C., Singh, J., Carlson, P., Brutsche, N., Ameli, R., & Luckenbaugh, D. et al. (2006). A Randomized Trial of an N-methyl-D-aspartate Antagonist in Treatment-Resistant Major Depression. Archives Of General Psychiatry, 63(8), 856. DOI: 10.1001/archpsyc.63.8.856.

Image via stevepb/Pixabay.

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Sniff Out Alzheimer’s Risk with Powerful New Smell Test Tue, 13 Dec 2016 16:00:45 +0000 A provocative new report suggests a low-cost, non-invasive testing protocol may identify older individuals at increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators discovered testing individuals’ ability to recognize, remember and distinguish between odors provided similar recommendations as genetic, imaging, and more detailed memory tests.

The report — suggesting testing of both olfactory and cognitive abilities as a means to designate candidates for treatments designed to halt or slow Alzheimer’s symptom development — has been published online in Annals of Neurology.

Mark Albers, M.D., Ph.D., of the MGH Department of Neurology, the principal investigator and corresponding author of the report says:

“There is increasing evidence that the neurodegeneration behind Alzheimer’s disease starts at least 10 years before the onset of memory symptoms. The development of a digitally-enabled, affordable, accessible, and non-invasive means to identify healthy individuals who are at risk is a critical step to developing therapies that slow down or halt Alzheimer’s disease progression.”

It is well-known that brain circuits that process olfactory information can be affected by Alzheimer’s disease, and several studies have documented a diminished ability to identify odors in affected individuals.

Other studies have associated deficits in odor identification with established Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers and with greater rates of cognitive decline. However, the most commonly used test of olfactory ability — the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test — has a number of limitations and does not take into account the great variation in olfactory ability among healthy individuals.

In the research the MGH team used a battery of four tests to addresses both olfactory and cognitive functions:

  • In the OPID (Odor Percept IDentification)-10 test, participants are presented with a battery of 10 odors — menthol, clove, leather, strawberry, lilac, pineapple, smoke, soap, grape, or lemon. After experiencing each odor for two seconds, they are asked whether the scent is familiar and then asked to choose among four words — from the names listed above — for the one that best describes the odor.
  • Participants then complete the Odor Awareness Scale (OAS), a previously validated questionnaire that assesses their overall attention to environmental odors and how they are affected emotionally and behaviorally by scents.
  • The OPID-20 test includes the 10 odors previously presented and an additional 10 — banana, garlic, cherry, baby powder, grass, fruit punch, peach, chocolate, dirt, and orange. Participants are first asked whether a presented odor was included in the OPID-10 test and then asked which word best describes the odor. Their ability to remember odors from the first test determines their POEM (Percepts of Odor Episodic Memory) score.
  • In the Odor Discrimination (OD) test, participants are presented with two consecutive odors and asked whether they were different or the same, a process that is repeated 12 times with different paired scents.

The study recruited 183 participants, most of whom were enrolled in ongoing studies at the MGH-based Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

At the time of the olfactory testing, 70 were cognitively normal, 74 tested normal on cognitive tests but were personally concerned about their cognitive abilities, 29 had mild cognitive impairment, and 10 had been diagnosed with possible or probable Alzheimer’s disease.

As part of the studies they were enrolled in, all of them had comprehensive medical and neurological examinations — including annual tests of their memory and cognitive abilities — and several had brain imaging studies of Alzheimer’s-associated factors.

Results of the OPID-20 test significantly differentiated among the four groups of participants, and those results correlated with the thinning of two brain regions — the hippocampus and the entorhinal cortex — previously associated with Alzheimer’s risk.

Participants’ ability to remember a previously presented aroma, as reflected in the POEM score, also showed significant differences between the two cognitively normal groups and participants with Alzheimer’s disease, whose results were no better than chance.

Because the ability of normal individuals to recognize and discriminate between odors can vary by as much as 40 times, the POEM scores of the two cognitively normal groups were compared with what would have been predicted based on their ability to identify and differentiate between odors, as reflected in the OAS and OD tests.

That comparison determined whether each individual was a good or poor POEM performer, and poor POEM performers were more likely to have the variant of the APOE gene associated with increased Alzheimer’s risk. While results of an annual test of short-term memory improved year-to-year for the good POEM performers, no such improvement was seen among the poor performers, who also showed thinning of the entorhinal cortex.

Albers and his colleagues are currently recruiting participants for a larger-scale study to validate these results:

“It is well recognized that early diagnosis and intervention are likely to produce the most effective therapeutic strategy for Alzheimer’s disease — preventing the onset or the progression of symptoms. If these results hold up, this sort of inexpensive, noninvasive screening could help us identify the best candidates for novel therapies to prevent the development of symptoms of this tragic disease.”

This guest article originally appeared on Sniff Test May Detect Risk for Alzheimer’s by Rick Nauert PhD.


Dhilla Albers, A., Asafu-Adjei, J., Delaney, M.K., Kelly, K.E., Gomez-Isla, T., Blacker, D., Johnson, K.A., Sperling, R.A., Hyman, B.T., Betensky, R.A., Hastings, L. and Albers, M.W. (2016) ‘Episodic memory of odors stratifies Alzheimer biomarkers in normal elderly’, Annals of Neurology, . doi: 10.1002/ana.24792.

Image via MarionF / Pixabay.

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Using Magnets on the Brain to Bring Back Memories Sun, 11 Dec 2016 16:00:30 +0000 New research is challenging the idea that working memory helps us remembers things through sustained brain activity.

Instead, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found that our brains tuck less-important information away beyond the reach of the tools that typically monitor brain activity. The researchers then were able to bring that information back into active attention with magnets.

The research could eventually help people suffering from schizophrenia or depression, according to Dr. Brad Postle, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison:

“A lot of mental illness is associated with the inability to choose what to think about. What we’re taking are first steps toward looking at the mechanisms that give us control over what we think about.”

According to Postle, most people feel they are able to concentrate on a lot more than their working memory can actually hold. It’s a bit like vision, in which it feels like we’re seeing everything in our field of view, but details slip away unless you re-focus on them regularly:

“The notion that you’re aware of everything all the time is a sort of illusion your consciousness creates. That is true for thinking, too. You have the impression that you’re thinking of a lot of things at once, holding them all in your mind. But lots of research shows us you’re probably only actually attending to — are conscious of in any given moment — just a very small number of things.”

For the study, the researchers conducted a series of experiments in which people were asked to remember two items representing different types of information — words, faces, and directions of motion — because they’d be tested on their memories.

When the researchers gave their subjects a cue as to the type of question coming — a face, for example, instead of a word — the electrical activity and blood flow in the brain associated with the word memory disappeared. But if a second cue came letting the person know they would now be asked about that word, the brain activity would jump back up to a level indicating it was the focus of attention.

“People have always thought neurons would have to keep firing to hold something in memory. Most models of the brain assume that. But we’re watching people remember things almost perfectly without showing any of the activity that would come with a neuron firing. The fact that you’re able to bring it back at all in this example proves it’s not gone. It’s just that we can’t see evidence for its active retention in the brain.”

The researchers were also able to bring the seemingly abandoned items back to mind without cueing their subjects. Using a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to apply a focused electromagnetic field to a precise part of the brain involved in storing the word, they could trigger the sort of brain activity representing focused attention.

Additionally, if they cued their subjects to focus on a face (causing brain activity associated with the word to drop off), a well-timed pulse of transcranial magnetic stimulation would snap the stowed memory back into attention, and prompt the subjects to incorrectly think that they had been cued to focus on the word, the researchers report:

“We think that memory is there, but not active. More than just showing us it’s there, the TMS can actually make that memory temporarily active again.”

The study suggests a state of memory apart from the spotlight attention of active working memory and the deep storage of more significant things in long-term memory, according to Postle:

“What’s still unknown here is how the brain determines what falls away, and what enables you to retrieve things in the short-term if you need them.”

Studying how the brain apportions attention could eventually influence the way we understand and treat some mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, in which patients focus on hallucinations instead of reality, and depression, which seems related to spending an unhealthy amount of time dwelling on negative things, he noted:

“We are making some interesting progress with very basic research. But you can picture a point at which this work could help people control their attention, choose what they think about, and manage or overcome some very serious problems associated with a lack of control.”

This guest article originally appeared on Magnetic Brain Stimulation Can Activate Dormant Memories by Janice Wood.


Rose, N.S., LaRocque, J.J., Riggall, A.C., Gosseries, O., Starrett, M.J., Meyering, E.E. and Postle, B.R. (2016) ‘Reactivation of latent working memories with transcranial magnetic stimulation’, Science, 354(6316), pp. 1136–1139. doi: 10.1126/science.aah7011.

Image via PeteLinforth / Pixabay.

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How to Secure Therapy Completion with Meta-Intervention Mon, 05 Dec 2016 16:00:53 +0000 Keeping messages brief and simple is more effective when trying to encourage patients to complete a health care program, according to new research.

In a study that analyzes six years of data, a team of researchers found small “nudges” in the right direction were a simple, inexpensive, and effective way to increase completion of health care programs, leading to a 16 percent jump in the completion rate for an already fastidious audience.

Dr. Dolores Albarracin, a professor of psychology and business administration at the University of Illinois and one of the co-authors of the study said that:

“Retention and completion are critical components of the effectiveness of health care interventions in real-world conditions, so a 16 percent increase in completion is significant.”

She noted that most health care intervention programs — for example, 10 sessions with a counselor — are expensive to implement and deliver:

“Patients start but they often drop out, which is not beneficial and is a huge deadweight loss of resources for everyone. That’s why increasing retention rates is vital for public health, because multi-session behavioral interventions or a series of appointments with a health care provider are more efficacious when completed.”

For the study, a randomized control trial with more than 700 eligible patients in Florida was conducted to identify a simple, effective intervention to increase the completion of an HIV-prevention counseling program delivered at the Duval County Department of Health.

The study involved two factors: One representing an instrumental message and the other an empowering message. The messages were brief videos played immediately after the counseling program.

The instrumental message reminded participants that they could discuss issues other than HIV with their counselor. The empowering message was designed to make them feel free, independent and in charge of their decision to return — a strategy that doubled enrollment in programs in other work by the same team, according to the study.

The idea was to use brief, simple marketing messages not for a commercial product. As Albarracin explains:

“health programs to get people to complete interventions that change detrimental behavior. These messages were designed to either empower clients as agents responsible for their own change or to highlight the instrumental outcomes of the intervention in terms of participants’ lives by addressing health concerns other than HIV, such as employment or education.”

Results indicated that the instrumental message alone produced more completion than either the empowering message alone or combined with the instrumental message.

The success of the simple, post-session message, which the researchers termed “meta-intervention,” comes down to the power of the nudge as a “gentle reminder to do something,” Albarracin said:

“The word ‘nudge’ has such a nice connotation to it because it reminds us that we need to find strategies that are simple and cost-effective. In a health care setting, you need something that’s practical, implementable and inexpensive. This is that kind of approach.”

For people who are vulnerable or disadvantaged, repeated contact with the health care system is important, according to Albarracin.

“Contact with the public health system is often the front door to accessing a lot of other public services — mental health services, career and employment services, and other forms of social assistance,” she said. “So the public health system might design a program with health in mind, but the audience who is buying into the program has multiple goals in mind, not just health.”

Having a good job or access to other services is just as important, which is why you have to sell the benefits of the program from the perspective of the audience, not of the provider, according to Albarracin:

“Social marketing is a marriage between psychological approaches and an approach that has the consumer in mind. Make it recipient- and patient-centered, not provider-centered. The instrumental message capitalizes on that.”

This guest article originally appeared on Brief ‘Nudge’ Can Help Patients Finish Health Program by Rick Nauert PhD.

Albarracín, D., Wilson, K., Durantini, M. R., Sunderrajan, A., & Livingood, W. (2016). A meta-intervention to increase completion of an HIV-prevention intervention: Results from a randomized controlled trial in the state of Florida. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 84(12), 1052–1065. doi:10.1037/ccp0000139

Image via Picudio / Pixabay.

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Affection, Not Money, Key to Child Health Tue, 18 Oct 2016 11:34:04 +0000 Growing up in a well-off home can benefit a child’s physical health even decades later, but a lack of parent-child warmth, or the presence of abuse, may eliminate the health advantage of a privileged background, according to a Baylor University study.

Assistant professor of sociology at Baylor University, Matthew A. Andersson, Ph.D., explains:

Previous research has associated high socioeconomic status with better childhood nutrition, sleep, neighborhood quality, and opportunities for exercise and development of social skills. But good parent-child bonds may be necessary to enforce eating, sleep, and activity routines.

For example, if parent-child relationships are strained or abusive, meals may be less coordinated among the family, and children may be more likely to eat sugary or high-fat foods as snacks or even in place of meals.

Sleep and activity routines also may become irregular, keeping children from developing healthy lifestyles and social and emotional skills useful for successful aging, Andersson said.

Unfortunately, although good parent-child bonds in economically disadvantaged homes, promote health, they do not seem to lessen the negative impact of low socioeconomic status as the children age, Andersson said.

Previous research has shown parents with less education and fewer financial advantages are more apt to threaten or force obedience rather than have constructive dialogue, and that may lessen warm relationships.

In addition, disease rates or inflammation among those children when they become adults have been linked strongly to abuse, mistreatment, or lower levels of parental warmth.

The study on Midlife Health and Parent-Child Relationships appears in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

For the study, health at midlife was defined as being free from 28 possible conditions, among them cancer, circulatory or respiratory disease, endocrine diseases, nervous system diseases, infectious and parasitic diseases, skin or digestive disease, and musculoskeletal conditions. Andersson explains the take-home message:

Much research continues to view socioeconomic status and parent-child bonds as highly related or even interchangeable. But in fact they may quite independently influence a child’s well-being. The key takeaway is that without adequate parent-child relationship quality to match, socioeconomic advantage during childhood may not offer much protection at all against major chronic disease as children become adults and reach middle age.

For the study, Andersson analyzed data on disease or poor health of middle-aged adults drawn from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS).

He surveyed 2,746 respondents ages 25 to 75 in 1995 about their childhood treatment by parents. He conducted surveys again about 10 years later, with 1,692 of the individuals taking part.

The follow-up analysis, adjusted for personal background in 1995 and for probability of dropping out of the MIDUS study, revealed that childhood abuse continued to undermine any protection from disease linked to childhood socioeconomic advantage.

This guest article originally appeared on Lack of Affection May Cancel Health Benefits of Well-Off Family


Andersson, M. A. (2016). Chronic disease at Midlife: Do parent-child bonds modify the effect of childhood SES? Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 57(3), 373–389. doi:10.1177/0022146516661596

Image via Pezibear / Pixabay.

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Projection – When Narcissists Turn the Blame on You Sun, 16 Oct 2016 11:22:38 +0000 Ah, projection. The fine art of making me guilty of your vices.


No one projects better or more frequently than a narcissist. They’ve practiced, honed and refined projection to a fine art.

Whatever they’re up to, by some mental “abracadabra,” suddenly they’re innocent and you’re actually the one up to no-good.

Deep In The Race

Since Eve ate the “apple” and blamed it on the serpent, projection has been a quintessential part of the human race. Since Adam ate the “apple” and blamed it on Eve, men have been projecting onto their wives. Wives have been projecting onto their husbands. Parents have been projecting onto their children. And siblings have been projecting onto each other.

C’mon, you know you’ve done it. I certainly have. And while projection may be elevated to a high art-form by narcissists, we’ve all done it or been tempted to do it. We’ve all got a little corner of narcissism in our souls. That’s why we understand them so well.

As I see it, projection proves how deeply and profoundly all homo sapiens, narcissists or otherwise, not only inherently know the moral code…but believe in it.

Why Project?

Guilt? Maybe.

Envy of other’s innocence? Perhaps.

Avoidance of the result of wrong-doing? Now we’re getting somewhere.

The need to be perfect! Bingo + all of the above.

Gotta protect that fragile little ol’ ego, y’know.


Projection is the great equalizer. Everyone the narcissist knows is equally guilty.

Their children, especially the one assigned the role of “scapegoat,” suffer the most from being projected upon. Trained to be humble and submissive, brainwashed to feel false guilt, they take on their elder’s vices without critical thinking. Bearing the “sins of the fathers” as a burden like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress.

Spouses of narcissists suffer from a shit-load of projection too. They are in the unenviable position of being accused o’re and o’re of infidelity. Y’know, the infidelity the narcissists is actually engaging in.

Co-workers are also a dandy target for career projection. After all, fill-in-the-blank is never the narcissist’s fault, yet blame must be assigned.

Projection In Literature

In his charming books on veterinary practice in Yorkshire, James Herriot wrote a fascinating line about his highly, shall we say, eccentric partner, Siegfried Farnon. James is speaking to Tristan, the long-suffering younger Farnon brother.

You know the one thing I can’t stand about your brother, Tris? It’s when he gets patient with you. He gets this saintly look on his face and you know that any moment now he’s going to forgive you. For something he’s just done.

Oh, how I remember that vile, nasty saintly expression of condescending forgiveness for a wrong I didn’t commit. I also remember the hand-written notes left for me by my parent, forgiving me for the abuse I forced them to commit against me. Abuses like throwing a sheaf of my schoolwork across the room and yelling at me for half an hour. My crime: Ending a paragraph with a question, instead of a statement. Isn’t that awful of me!? (sarcasm)

Ah, but I was forgiven by the next morning.


As it turns out, the concept of a “scapegoat” is thousands of years old, with a rich history.

In Leviticus 16:21 it says, “And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away…into the wilderness…”

Most ancient religions have some version of this. Projection of sin onto a sacrifice.

Projection makes us the scapegoat, wearing on our heads the iniquities of the narcissist. Our self-esteem and innocence is sacrificed on the altar of their ego, so they can go on their merry way.

Right Runs Deep

I would argue this shows how deeply and profoundly narcissists believe in right VS wrong.

If they don’t know right from wrong, why project?

If they don’t care about right vs wrong, why project?

If they don’t have a functioning conscience, why project?

It could be for expediency. To avoid the ramifications of their actions. To keep the smooth sailing going.

But, how would they know what needed to be projected, if they don’t know right from wrong?

They know, oh, how they know!

And therein is their undoing.


I dunno about you, but most of my best ideas happen in the shower. (Or bed.) I’ll never forget the “discovering fire” moment under a hot shower when something went “click.” I finally got it. Let’s hope I can articulate it to you.

The Old Testament concept of the scapegoat comes to full circle in the New Testament concept of atonement.

There is one and only one setting where projection actually works! We get to project our sins onto Christ. It’s okay. Go ahead and project. And in exchange, through the shedding of His innocent blood on the Cross, His perfection becomes ours.

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”, II Cor. 5:21

That’s why He came. He didn’t just come to be a great moral teacher. As C.S. Lewis wrote in “Lewis’s trilemma” in Mere Christianity:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say.

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.



Pretty deep stuff, huh. The age-old battle between Right vs Wrong. Mankind’s deep-seated need to be in the right, even if it means doing wrong (i.e. projection) to maintain the appearance of being in the right. And the profound paradigm of scapegoating, sacrifice and atonement.

Like the pieces of a puzzle, it all holds together. It makes sense. As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, ”

“Logic!” said the Professor half to himself. “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools?”

Above all, narcissists are logical. And, in a twisted way, projection is also logical. Twisted. Sad. Wrong…but still logical.

This guest article originally appeared on Projection: Narcissists’ Favorite Trick

Image via PublicDomainPictures / Pixabay.

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Best Strategy to Manage Stress Depends on the Person Fri, 14 Oct 2016 11:22:46 +0000 People use different coping strategies to deal with stressful events, and some people use coping strategies more than others. Three techniques for keeping perspective through the ups and downs of life that have been studied are:

Mindfulness: Staying aware in the present moment
Reappraisal: Finding ways of reinterpreting negative events to give them more positive meaning
Emotion Suppression: Putting negative emotions out of side and out of mind

To learn more about how these strategies work on a day-to-day basis, a team of researchers recently performed a study of 187 participants looking at how use of these strategies affected people’s moods.

Overall, different strategies had different benefits for different people.

Mindfulness helped people keep their emotions balanced in two ways. It both increased people’s levels of positive emotions and decreased their levels of negative emotions.

Emotion suppression turned out to have the exact opposite effect. When people used more emotion suppression, they reported higher levels of negative emotions and lower levels of positive emotions.

For reappraisal, the picture was a little more nuanced. For about half the people in the study, reappraisal seemed to be of no use in regulating their negative emotions. Overall, appraisal tended to be more helpful for people who were older: for older participants, using appraisal was associated with lower levels of negative emotions while for adolescents, it was linked to higher levels of negative emotions!

These results indicate that there’s no one-size-fits-all coping strategy that works for everyone. Finding whatever way of dealing with stressful situations works best for you is the way to go.

That said, some strategies seem like promising places to look. Mindfulness is an especially promising candidate while for many emotion suppression will do more harm than good. And reappraisal? You’ve probably got about a fifty-fifty chance on that one.

This guest article originally appeared on Mindfulness, Reappraisal, Emotion Suppression: Which Coping Strategies Work?


Brockman, R., Ciarrochi, J., Parker, P., & Kashdan, T. (2016). Emotion regulation strategies in daily life: Mindfulness, cognitive reappraisal and emotion suppression. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. doi:10.1080/16506073.2016.1218926

Image via lecreusois / Pixabay.

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The Science of a Happy Family – Leisure Time Wed, 12 Oct 2016 11:22:43 +0000 Family fun often means new activities and destinations but a new study suggests leisure time spent at home in familiar pastimes may be a better route to happiness.

The lead author of a newly published study in the World Leisure Journal, Dr. Karen K. Melton, assistant professor of child and family studies at Baylor University talks causality:

That may be because when the brain is focused on processing new information, such as taking part in an unfamiliar activity with unfamiliar people in a new location, less ‘brain power’ is available to focus on the family relationships,

While research results suggest that all quality time together contributes to satisfaction with family life, “all family leisure is not equal,” she said.

The best predictor of happiness for families may be spending quality time together in familiar activities inside the home. And that’s great news for families who have little time or few resources.

Researchers performed the online research beginning with a sample of 1,502 individuals in 884 families in the United Kingdom. Each family unit taking part in the online research had at least one child between the ages of 11 and 15.

Participants answered questions about whether they took part in family leisure in the past year, and if so, what activities (from 16 categories) they did, how much time they spent doing them and how frequently they did so.

Melton said that the catchy expression “The family that plays together, stays together!” carries two misconceptions: that all family leisure brings positive results and that all family activities are equal.

Family members also can express stress and conflict as well as pleasure during leisure time. The activities alone will not heal the scars of hurting families.

Melton noted that some studies support the idea that eating together is one of the best predictors of functioning families, while watching TV is seen as ineffective for individual happiness or family function. Melton warns, however, that each family is different and that a one-size-fits-all notion is often incorrect.

For some families, quality togetherness is having dinner together or playing games; for others, it may be hobbies, videos, TV or music… At the end of the day, what matters is that we are social beings who crave a sense of belonging and connectivity.

This guest article originally appeared on Leisure Time At Home May Be Best Path to Happy Family

Melton, K. K., & Zabriskie, R. B. (2016). In the pursuit of happiness all family leisure is not equal. World Leisure Journal, 58(4), 311–326. doi:10.1080/16078055.2016.1228154

Image via ArtsyBee / Pixabay.

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Challenging Goal? Improve Focus by Engaging Your Brain Mon, 10 Oct 2016 11:22:42 +0000 New research confirms anecdotal observations that people can easily be distracted if they want to be, and that the ability to concentrate on a task and stay disciplined is best accomplished when an individual is interested.

Investigators say their findings provide evidence that one’s motivation is just as important for sustained attention to a task as is the ease with which the task is done.

The research also challenges the hypothesis, proposed by some cognitive neuroscientists, that people become more distractible as they tackle increasingly difficult tasks.

A report of the new study appears in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. The authors of the study, University of Illinois psychology professors Drs. Simona Buetti and Alejandro Lleras write:

People must almost continuously balance their need for inner focus (reflection, mental effort) with their need for attending to the world. But, when the need for inner focus is high, we may have the impression that we momentarily disengage from the world entirely in order to achieve a heightened degree of mental focus.

Buetti and Lleras designed several experiments to test whether people are more easily distracted when the mental effort required to complete a task goes up, as is generally assumed in their field.

The researchers first asked participants to solve math problems of varying difficulty while photographs of neutral scenes — for example, cows in a pasture, a portrait of a man, a cup on a table — flashed on a computer display for three seconds, enticing the subjects to look at them.

An eye-tracking device measured the frequency, speed, and focus of participants’ eyes as they completed the math problems.

The results showed that participants who were engaged in an easy version of the task were more likely to look at the distractors than those engaged in an extremely challenging version. These results run counter to current theories, the researchers said. As put by Buetti:

This suggests that focus on complex mental tasks reduces a person’s sensitivity to events in the world that are not related to those tasks

This finding corresponds to research on a phenomenon called “inattentional blindness,” in which people involved in an engaging task often fail to notice strange and unexpected events. As put by the authors:

Between the inner world of solving a problem and the outer world — what’s going on around you — there seems to be a need to disengage from one when heightened attention to the other is required…Interestingly, when participants completed a mix of easy and hard tasks, the difficulty of the task did not seem to affect their distractibility.

This finding led the researchers to hypothesize that the ability to avoid being distracted is not driven primarily by the difficulty of the task, but is likely the result of an individual’s level of engagement with the endeavor. They call this concept the “engagement theory of distractibility.”

The team did further studies to test this idea, manipulating subjects’ enthusiasm for the task with financial incentives. To the researchers’ surprise, this manipulation had little effect on participants’ distractibility. However, as explained by Buetti there were large differences between people in terms of their distractibility:

The more participants struggled with a task, the more they reflexively avoided distraction, irrespective of financial incentive. So, the take-home message is: Characteristics of the task itself, like its difficulty, do not alone predict distractibility. Other factors also play a role, like the ease with which we can perform a task, as well as a decision that is internal to each of us: how much we decide to cognitively engage in a task.

This guest article originally appeared on Motivation Linked to Ability to Stay on Task


Buetti, S., & Lleras, A. Distractibility is a function of engagement, not task difficulty: Evidence from a new oculomotor capture paradigm. (2016). Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 145(10), 1382–1405. doi:10.1037/xge0000213

Image via keijj44 / Pixabay.

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New Target in Brain for Treating Depression — The BMP Pathway Sat, 08 Oct 2016 11:22:41 +0000 A significant number of patients do not respond to antidepressant drugs, and some even feel worse, a somber fact that emphasizes the urgent need to find other treatment options.

In a new study on mice, scientists at Northwestern Medicine have discovered a pathway in the brain that may be a promising new drug target for people with non-responsive depression.

Sarah Brooker, the first author and an M.D./Ph.D student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine explains:

Identifying new pathways that can be targeted for drug design is an important step forward in improving the treatment of depressive disorders

Brooker conducted the study in the lab of senior study author Dr. Jack Kessler, a professor of neurology at Feinberg and a Northwestern Medicine neurologist.

The aim of their research is to gain a better understanding of how current antidepressants work in the brain, with the ultimate goal of finding new drug targets that are more effective for people who do not respond to current medications.

During the study, scientists discovered for the first time that antidepressant drugs such as Prozac and tricyclics target a pathway in the hippocampus called the BMP signaling pathway. A signaling pathway is a group of molecules in a cell that work together to control one or more cell functions.

Like a cascade, after the first molecule in a pathway receives a signal, it activates another molecule and so forth until the cell function is carried out.

The researchers found that Prozac and tricyclics inhibit this pathway and, thereby, trigger stem cells in the brain to produce more neurons responsible for mood and memory formation. However, the researchers didn’t know if blocking the pathway contributed to the drugs’ antidepressant effect because Prozac acts on multiple mechanisms in the brain.

After confirming the importance of the BMP pathway in depression, the scientists investigated a brain protein, called Noggin, on depressed mice. Noggin is known to block the BMP pathway and stimulate new neurons, a process known as neurogenesis.

They discovered Noggin blocks the pathway more precisely and effectively than Prozac or tricyclics, as the mice soon experienced a strong antidepressant effect.

A sign of depression in mice is a tendency to hang lifelessly when held by the tail, rather than struggle to get themselves upright. After receiving Noggin, mice energetically tried to lift themselves up, whereas control mice were more likely to give up and just hang there.

The mice were then placed in a maze with secluded (safe) and open (less safe) spaces. The Noggin mice were less anxious and explored more mazes than the control mice.

As put by Kessler, also the Ken and Ruth Davee Professor of Stem Cell Biology:

The biochemical changes in the brain that lead to depression are not well understood, and many patients fail to respond to currently available drugs. Our findings may not only help to understand the causes of depression, but also may provide a new biochemical target for developing more effective therapies.

This guest article originally appeared on Scientists Target New Pathway in Brain to Alleviate Depression


Brooker, S. M., Gobeske, K. T., Chen, J., Peng, C.-Y., & Kessler, J. A. (2016). Molecular psychiatry – abstract of article: Hippocampal bone morphogenetic protein signaling mediates behavioral effects of antidepressant treatment. Molecular Psychiatry. doi:10.1038/mp.2016.160

Image via geralt / Pixabay.

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How to Deal with Destination Memory Issues – Did I Already Tell You? Fri, 16 Sep 2016 08:50:30 +0000 Have you ever realized or been informed that the person you are talking to has already heard the joke or story you are telling?

I already told your this?

If you have been in this situation, you are not alone. You are dealing with what experts call, destination memory.

Destination memory is the ability to remember to whom you told what. The reason that so many of us have problems with it, is that it has been found to be weaker than other forms of memory regardless of age.

Why is Destination Memory Weaker?

• According to Nigel Gopie and Colin MacLeod, the researchers who coined the term destination memory, we may have more practice and feedback developing other forms of memory like explicit memory, our memory for facts, dates, vocabulary etc. or implicit memory, our memory for riding a bike, driving a car etc. You’ve heard the expression, “ It’s like riding a bike, you never forget it.” The destination of what we say may be weaker because we have more need to remember the fact than the person with whom we share it.

• Gopie and Mackleod’s research findings reported in 2009 in Psychological Science reveal that when students are asked to speak a fact they are trying to memorize out loud to someone’s picture, their later performance on remembering the facts and faces declines compared to students who asked to simply memorize facts matched with faces.

• One hypothesis is that the telling of the fact to another person is actually a competing task that interferes with memory. Perhaps we suppress the memory of our audience to reduce the interference.

• Certainly more research is needed, but for now…

How Do You Improve Destination Memory?

These researchers suggest that saying the recipient’s name before you share your information increases the likelihood of remembering to whom you told what. “Joe, I have to tell you what happened at the office last week.”

How Do You Actually Avoid The Embarrassment Of Re-telling A Story?

It is suggested that if uncertain, you might preface the story with a caveat like “Stop me if I told you this – it’s just so interesting to me…. Or “I might have told your this, if so…. etc.”

Should We Correct Our Partner’s Destination Memory?

Think twice. If it is a choice between “Honey, you already told them about our nightmare cruise,” or relying on the patience of your listening friends – go with the friends.

Destination Memory Doesn’t Have to Count Between Partners

The telling and re-telling of stories old and new – particularly of shared experiences is not only inevitable between partners – it is desirable. It is a little bit like the “ mutual stuff” both partners accept as their shared clutter in the place they call home. Such stories are welcomed and appreciated as the favorite legends of their relationship.

Whereas the kids no longer want to hear about the “nightmare cruise” and the friends no longer care, the couple can take them off the shelf over and over and enjoy the re-telling. It is part of their fabric, their shared oral history, and the destination that they share.

This guest article originally appeared on Do you have a problem with destination memory?


Gopie, N. and MacLeod, C.M. (2009) ‘Destination memory: Stop me if I’ve told you this before’, Psychological Science, 20(12), pp. 1492–1499. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02472.x.

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Coping with Trauma in Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Thu, 15 Sep 2016 15:30:09 +0000 The original 2015 Netflix series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, starring Ellie Kemper, is pure comedy at its finest as quirky — and certainly bubbly — 29 year-old Kimmy Schmidt moves from Indiana to New York City for a fresh start. She finds a home with Titus, the dramatic and eccentric roommate looking for stardom (played by Tituss Burgess), has adventures with Lillian, the tough-as-nails and offbeat landlord (played by Carol Kane), and begins to work as a nanny for Jacqueline, a snobby but lovable socialite (played by Jane Krakowski).

But underneath the literally laugh out loud dialogue and hilarity is a serious — and comparatively unique — storyline. In episode one, we learn that Kimmy was kidnapped along with three other young women by a reverend who told them the world was ending; she spent fifteen years of her life immersed in an apocalypse cult, living in an underground bunker until they were finally freed.

And as wondrous as it is for Kimmy to have a second chance at life, you could imagine she may have some post traumatic stress to confront. After all, while she was living in the bunker for fifteen years, her main objective was to adapt to the experience. And to survive.

In season one, we find Kimmy back in the real world again. Her lack of awareness regarding pop culture or societal trends or famous news headlines surely gives way to humor, and her immense drive to surpass her past and move on is admirable. We watch Kimmy help friends who are struggling, take G.E.D courses and even become entangled in a love triangle. And through it all, Kimmy upholds an extremely optimistic disposition. (Though I should note that Kimmy does have a bright disposition, in general).

However, remnants of Kimmy’s kidnapping seep in between the cracks. We see her have a night terror; we see her highly startled from various triggers; we see her react to those triggers with aggression; and, we see her deal with unpleasant moments by counting to ten (an exercise she practiced in the bunker).

In one episode, Kimmy contemplates having plastic surgery. She does not desire recognition; she does not want her experience of victimization to define her. But before she can go through with the procedure, she realizes that fixing the outside won’t matter. Fixing the inside is what counts.

While it’s hinted at that Kimmy would benefit from talking to someone, it’s season two that truly showcases Kimmy’s progress. We see her have flashbacks and erratic sleep patterns and indigestion issues (insinuating she may have some emotional purging to do). We see her put others needs before her own, as if she doesn’t value her own needs at all; as if she’s simply invisible.

When she wakes up on a roller coaster and doesn’t know how she got there, she knows that’s her ‘wake up call’ to seek professional help.

And while her therapist has her own set of problems (played by Tina Fey), Kimmy does begin to deal with not only what happened in the bunker, but deep-seated emotions that preceded her kidnapping, too. (And I don’t want to be a “spoiler,” but let’s just say she has some unfinished issues with her mother.)

Another motif worth mentioning is the strong feminist approach to the show as well; feminist in the sense that these women survived such adversity and will continue to acquire the strength they need to live their lives.

In a 2015 interview with Ellie Kemper for Collider, she’s asked how she balances Kimmy’s optimism with her strength, and how she still finds the humor in such a role:

What makes this character very special is that, sure, if you saw her at the post office, you might think, ‘Oh, here’s a woman in bright pink pants with red hair who’s smiling,’ but you never would guess the resilience that lies inside. That union of traits is what makes her so special. She’s not hardened by it. She’s still optimistic and wanting to believe that the best can happen. She wasn’t defeated by this horrible thing.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is not your average television series. It’s multi-faceted with emotional depth, relaying the inspirational message that resiliency can always be fostered — that trauma could lead to redemption.

This guest article originally appeared on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Coping with Trauma

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9/11 Survivors – Prolonged Mental and Physical Health Problems Tue, 13 Sep 2016 15:30:25 +0000 Emerging research discovers significant health problems continue to affect people exposed to hazards 15 years after the terror attacks of 9/11 and the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.

Dr. Steven Stellman, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health is co-author of four new studies through the World Trade Center Health Registry. The articles report on outcomes, including cancer, PTSD, acid reflux, asthma, as well as job loss, and early retirement.

Led by scientists at the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the studies appear in a special 9/11-themed issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, and are put into context by Dr. Stellman:

A decade and a half after the terrorist attacks of September 11, we have the clearest picture yet on the effects of the events on the health and wellbeing of those most affected…

While the full extent of cancer risk to the affected population may not be known for years, the new research reveals that, as of 2011, rescue/recovery workers at the World Trade Center site had an 11 percent greater overall cancer risk compared to New York State norms.

Other survivors experienced an eight percent increase. The increases among both groups were most notable for cancers of the prostate and melanoma of the skin. As described by Stellman:

On the day of the attacks, people in the vicinity of the site were exposed to intense concentrations of fine particulate dust containing hazardous substances, including many known carcinogens including asbestos and silica. Fumes and dust also penetrated people’s homes and workplaces in lower Manhattan, leading to a lengthy and difficult decontamination process.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is one of the most common health conditions reported among persons exposed to the attacks, affecting one in five Registry enrollees in the first two years after 9/11.

In the new research, Stellman and his co-authors find that half of those with early GERD symptoms continued to report persistent symptoms ten years after 9/11, and were more likely to report continuing symptoms if they both had asthma and PTSD during the first three years after 9/11.

Many researchers think that GERD, PTSD, and asthma are all related to to 9/11 exposures and have proposed biological mechanisms by which each of these diseases might exacerbate the others.

However, Stellman said, there is still some uncertainty as to causal relationships since persons with one or two of these conditions are likely to have more medical exams that could lead to increased likelihood of the third diagnosis.

Ten years after the disaster, about seven percent of non-uniformed rescue and recovery workers left their jobs prematurely, about half through early retirement and half due to health-related job loss.

Among non-uniformed rescue/recovery workers age 60 or younger who were still working in 2008, those who endured the most serious 9/11-related health burden were most likely to retire early before reaching the age of 60, and most likely to be unemployed for health reasons.

For the one in five study participants with PTSD, the risk was compounded. Those with a chronic health condition and symptoms of 9/11-related PTSD had double the chances of early retirement, while the odds of health-related job loss increased as much as 10-fold, compared to relatively healthy workers.

The Registry, which opened in 2003, has enrolled 71,000 people who lived, worked, or went to school in the area of the disaster, or were involved in rescue and recovery efforts.

Over the past 14 years, scientists have published nearly 70 papers using Registry data, covering many outcomes including physical and mental health, health care access and utilization, birth outcomes, child and adolescent behavior, quality of life, disaster response, and the added impact of Hurricane Sandy on 9/11 exposed persons.

According to Stellman, the Registry will continue to monitor the population to assess changes in health over time, emphasizing chronic illnesses that may take longer to appear, such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, as well as broader questions of health care access and utilization, and quality of life:

We generously respond to disasters by providing immediate humanitarian aid, but disasters can also have a long lasting effect on many people. Fifteen years is not a long time, particularly considering much of the data that we’re reporting ends about three to five years earlier than today. For chronic diseases, much of the story is still to be written.

This guest article originally appeared on Myriad Health & Other Problems Linger 15 Years After 9/11

Source: Columbia Mailman School of Public Health

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