Sabrina Behrens, MA – Brain Blogger Health and Science Blog Covering Brain Topics Wed, 30 May 2018 15:00:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Pulling Your Hair Out – Complexities of Trichotillomania Tue, 02 Dec 2008 15:33:39 +0000 Many of us have felt overwhelming anxiety or worry that has made us want to “pull our hair out.” There is a real psychological disorder where sufferers actually yank out their hair as a result of unwanted emotions or feelings called trichotillomania. Individuals have an irresistible urge to pull out hair from his or her own body or occasionally from the body of others.

Trichotillomania is seen to have a neurobiological basis. Because it is triggered by a variety of stressful or traumatic life events, simple one-fit-all treatment modalities such as use of anti-depressant medications (e.g. SSRIs) will not completely cure the trichotillomania. There is no magic pill or quick fix for trichotillomania management. It is a complex disorder and requires equally complex therapy.

HairA recent study published in Behaviour Research and Therapy examined possible phenomenological differences between the automatic and focused styles of pulling in youths with trichotillomania. It looked at differences in severity, phenomenology, co-morbid psychiatric symptoms, and functional impact in individuals with varying levels of hair pulling styles. Youths between the ages of 10 and 17 years were asked to participate in the study via an Internet-based survey. 186 individuals with chronic hair pulling behavior were classified as “high-focused” or “low-focused” and either “high-automatic” or “low-automatic” when pulling out their hair. These classifications were based upon scores obtained on the Milwaukee Inventory for Styles of Trichotillomania-Child Version (MIST-C).

Results demonstrated large differences in pulling styles. “High-focused” pullers reported more severe trichotillomania and greater symptoms of anxiety and depression than “low-focused” pullers, and “high-automatic” pullers reported greater symptoms of depression than “low-automatic” pullers.

This study is the first of its kind to highlight the different trichotillomania presentations and the wide range of symptom severity. Health professionals need to be aware of the constellation of possible symptoms, and treat trichotillomania on a case-by-case basis, using a extensive assortment of treatment options.


C FLESSNER (2008). Styles of pulling in youths with trichotillomania: Exploring differences in symptom severity, phenomenology, and comorbid psychiatric symptoms? Behaviour Research and Therapy, 46 (9), 1055-1061 DOI: 10.1016/j.brat.2008.06.006

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Musical Medicine – Recovery After a MCA Stroke Fri, 21 Nov 2008 18:39:19 +0000 Listening to music activates a network of brain regions associated with memory, motor functioning and emotional processing. Certain tunes can spark an individual to recall the lyrics of a song, even if they have not heard the song for several years. A certain song can help to recall a certain memory o time in your life in vivid detail. Music is found to enhance emotional and cognitive functioning, decrease the perception of pain and increase endurance during athletic endeavors. Music makes virtually everything more pleasurable from sitting in the dentist’s chair to waiting in line at the grocery store.

The amazing functions of listening to music have been expanded to determine if daily music exposure can aid in the recovery of traumatic brain injury, specifically after a stroke. The effects of music upon cognitive functions and mood have been studied among patients who had a specific type of stroke affecting the middle cerebral artery (MCA).

MusicPatients affected by a MCA stroke were randomly exposed to music, audio books, or did not receive auditory treatment (control group). All three groups received consistent standard medical treatment and rehabilitation; the only differing variable in their treatment was the type of audio therapy they were exposed to.

At 3 month and 6 month intervals post stroke, the patients were evaluated via cognitive assessment. The results of the assessment showed that the individuals who listened to music demonstrated an obvious increase in verbal skills, memory and focused attention when compared to the audio book and control group. The patients who listened to music also showed a decrease in depression and confused mood.

The findings show that exposure to music after a MCA type stroke can help in the recovery of brain processes and increase the quality of life for the sufferers. It is amazing that something as simple as listening to music can make such a large difference in the recovery of severe brain trauma.

Music can drastically improve the overall cognitive functioning and mood and seems like a simple yet extremely effective way of improving an individual’s quality of life and can amazingly repair brain performance after a devastating brain injury. Perhaps musical therapy can be utilized for future treatment of specific brain trauma, such as MCA-type strokes, and can be researched even further to expose other possible benefits.


T. Sarkamo, M. Tervaniemi, S. Laitinen, A. Forsblom, S. Soinila, M. Mikkonen, T. Autti, H. M. Silvennoinen, J. Erkkila, M. Laine, I. Peretz, M. Hietanen (2008). Music listening enhances cognitive recovery and mood after middle cerebral artery stroke Brain, 131 (3), 866-876 DOI: 10.1093/brain/awn013

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Alcohol 101 – the Best Class on Campus Tue, 18 Nov 2008 14:27:24 +0000 Alcohol use by underage college students has increasingly grown as a large issue across the United States. Excessive, or binge drinking among college students is associated with a variety of negative consequences, such as a decrease in academic productivity, unwanted sexual encounters and an increase in violent behavior.

Many colleges have made an attempt to examine the root cause of such extreme drinking by students, and have developed programs to deter students from consuming alcohol. These programs have traditionally included education and counseling to increase the student’s awareness and knowledge regarding consequences of heavy drinking. These programs have been found to show little impact on student’s overall alcohol consumption. Alternate attempts to curb drinking on college campuses have been designed to alter the environmental, psychosocial causes for drinking among college age students as an attempt to reshape attitudes and social norms regarding alcohol consumption.

AlcoholThe concept that student perceptions of campus drinking norms will directly influence an individual’s decision of how much to drink has been the focus for the trend to reshape these social norms. The notion that others drink excessively may cause students to feel justified and pressured to consume more alcohol than they would if lead to believe that their peers drank more moderately.

Anti-drinking campaigns including newspaper advertisements and flyers have attempted to reshape the concept of drinking by pushing the idea that most college students do not drink in excessive amounts. Certain slogans such as “4 or More and You Won’t Score” are used to express that excessive drinking (4 or more drinks) is not “cool.”

Studies have shown that a variety of factors including a party-like atmosphere and having school friends present during a social event will increase the likelihood that alcohol will be consumed in large quantities. These factors are unlikely to be altered by flyer’s and newspaper advertisements. Pressure to conform to social norms of college drinking does seem to be a contributing factor to the consumption of alcohol on college campuses, but is not the sole reason college age students drink excessively.

Perhaps the main motivation for why college students consume alcohol is to escape from reality, release stress and relax in a social setting. These factors are key in understanding why alcohol consumption is at an all time high among college age students, regardless of attempts by college campuses to reshape student attitudes.

Programs that focus upon constructive methods of relieving stress and encouraging students to find healthy alternatives to partying could be more effective in reducing alcohol use on college campuses. Posting flyer’s and newspaper advertisements focusing on alternatives to partying would be more helpful than pressuring students to stop drinking by deeming it “uncool.”


John Clapp, Audrey Shillington (2001). ENVIRONMENTAL PREDICTORS OF HEAVY EPISODIC DRINKING The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 27 (2), 301-313 DOI: 10.1081/ADA-100103711

T OEI, C JARDIM (2007). Alcohol expectancies, drinking refusal self-efficacy and drinking behaviour in Asian and Australian students Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 87 (2-3), 281-287 DOI: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2006.08.019

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