Source credit: ScienceDaily (Dec. 21, 2011)
We know a lot about the links between a pregnant mother’s health, behavior, and moods and her baby’s cognitive and psychological development once it is born. But how does pregnancy change a mother’s brain? “Pregnancy is a critical period for central nervous system development in mothers,” says psychologist Laura M. Glynn of Chapman University. “Yet we know virtually nothing about it.”
Glynn and her colleague Curt A. Sandman, of University of the California Irvine, are doing something about that. Their review of the literature in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science, discusses the theories and findings that are starting to fill what Glynn calls “a significant gap in our understanding of this critical stage of most women’s lives.”
At no other time in a woman’s life does she experience such massive hormonal fluctuations as during pregnancy. Research suggests that the reproductive hormones may ready a woman’s brain for the demands of motherhood — helping her becomes less rattled by stress and more attuned to her baby’s needs. Although the hypothesis remains untested, Glynn surmises this might be why moms wake up when the baby stirs while dads snore on. Other studies confirm the truth in a common complaint of pregnant women: “Mommy Brain,” or impaired memory before and after birth. “There may be a cost” of these reproduction-related cognitive and emotional changes, says Glynn, “but the benefit is a more sensitive, effective mother.”
The article reviews research that refines earlier findings on the effects of the prenatal environment on the baby. For instance, evidence is accumulating to show that it’s not prenatal adversity on its own — say, maternal malnourishment or depression — that presents risks for a baby. Congruity between life in utero and life on the outside may matter more. A fetus whose mother is malnourished adapts to scarcity and will cope better with a dearth of food once it’s born — but could become obese if it eats normally. Timing is critical too: maternal anxiety early in gestation takes a toll on the baby’s cognitive development; the same high levels of stress hormones late in pregnancy enhance it.
Just as Mom permanently affects her fetus, new science suggests that the fetus does the same for Mom. Fetal movement, even when the mother is unaware of it, raises her heart rate and her skin conductivity, signals of emotion — and perhaps of pre-natal preparation for mother-child bonding. Fetal cells pass through the placenta into the mother’s bloodstream. “It’s exciting to think about whether those cells are attracted to certain regions in the brain” that may be involved in optimizing maternal behavior, says Glynn.
Glynn cautions that most research on the maternal brain has been conducted with rodents, whose pregnancies differ enormously from women’s; more research on human mothers is needed. But she is optimistic that a more comprehensive picture of the persisting brain changes wrought by pregnancy will yield interventions to help at-risk mothers do better by their babies and themselves.
The study was conducted with 50 Spanish soccer fans watching the finals between Spain and the Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup. The researchers, led by Leander van der Meij of the University of Valencia in Spain and VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands, measured testosterone and cortisol levels for fans of different ages, genders, and degree of interest in the game. They found that the increase in testosterone was independent of all these factors, but the increase in cortisol level was more pronounced for dedicated, young, male fans.
The authors write that the testosterone effect is in agreement with the “challenge hypothesis,” as testosterone levels increased to prepare for the game, and the cortisol effect is consistent with the “social self-preservation theory,” as higher cortisol secretion among young and greater soccer fans suggests that they perceived a particularly strong threat to their own social esteem if their team didn’t win.
- How to Replace Testosterone in “Low-T” Men (drjosephkaye.com)
- Hormone levels higher for soccer fans watching a game, but not upon win (eurekalert.org)
- Attractive Women are Bad for Health (socyberty.com)
Source and authorship credit: Everything you thought you knew about learning is wrong Psychology Today
Everything You Thought You Knew About Learning Is Wrong How, and how NOT, to learn anything Published on January 28, 2012 by Garth Sundem in Brain Candy
Learning through osmosis didn’t make the strategies list
Taking notes during class? Topic-focused study? A consistent learning environment? All are exactly opposite the best strategies for learning. Really, I recently had the good fortune to interview Robert Bjork, director of the UCLA Learning and Forgetting Lab, distinguished professor of psychology, and massively renowned expert on packing things in your brain in a way that keeps them from leaking out. And it turns out that everything I thought I knew about learning is wrong. Here’s what he said.
First, think about how you attack a pile of study material.
“People tend to try to learn in blocks,” says Bjork, “mastering one thing before moving on to the next.” But instead he recommends interleaving, a strategy in which, for example,instead of spending an hour working on your tennis serve, you mix in a range of skills like backhands, volleys, overhead smashes, and footwork. “This creates a sense of difficulty,” says Bjork, “and people tend not to notice the immediate effects of learning.”
Instead of making an appreciable leap forward with yourserving ability after a session of focused practice, interleaving forces you to make nearly imperceptible steps forward with many skills.
But over time, the sum of these small steps is much greater than the sum of the leaps you would have taken if you’d spent the same amount of time mastering each skill in its turn.
Bjork explains that successful interleaving allows you to “seat” each skill among the others: “If information is studied so that it can be interpreted in relation to other things in memory, learning is much more powerful,” he says.
There’s one caveat: Make sure the mini skills you interleave are related in some higher-order way. If you’re trying to learn tennis, you’d want to interleave serves, backhands, volleys, smashes, and footwork—not serves, synchronized swimming, European capitals, and programming in Java.
Similarly, studying in only one location is great as long as you’ll only be required to recall the information in the same location. If you want information to be accessible outside your dorm room, or office, or nook on the second floor of the library, Bjork recommends varying your study location.
And again, these tips generalize. Interleaving and varying your study location will help whether you’re mastering math skills, learning French, or trying to become a better ballroom dancer.
So too will a somewhat related phenomenon, the spacing effect, first described by Hermann Ebbinghaus in 1885. “If you study and then you wait, tests show that the longer you wait, the more you will have forgotten,” says Bjork. That’s obvious—over time, you forget. But here’s thecool part:
If you study, wait, and then study again, the longer the wait, the more you’ll have learned after this second study session.
Bjork explains it this way: “When we access things from our memory, we do more than reveal it’s there. It’s not like a playback. What we retrieve becomes more retrievable in the future. Provided the retrieval succeeds, the more difficult and involved the retrieval, the more beneficial it is.” Note that there’s a trick implied by “provided the retrieval succeeds”: You should space your study sessions so that the information you learned in the first session remains just barely retrievable. Then, the more you have to work to pull it from the soup of your mind, the more this second study session will reinforce your learning. If you study again too soon, it’s too easy.
Along these lines, Bjork also recommends taking notes just after class, rather than during—forcing yourself to recall a lecture’s information ismore effective than simply copying it from a blackboard. “Get out of court stenographer mode,” says Bjork. You have to work for it.
The more you work, the more you learn, and the more you learn, the more awesome you can become.
“Forget about forgetting,” says Robert Bjork.
“People tend to think that learning is building up something in your memory and that forgetting is losing the things you built.
But in some respects the opposite is true.” See, once you learn something, you never actually forget it. Do you remember your childhood best friend’s phone number? No? Well, Dr. Bjork showed that if you were reminded, you would retain it much more quickly and strongly than if you were asked to memorize a fresh seven-digit number. So this oldphone number is not forgotten—it lives somewhere in you—only, recall can be a bit tricky.
And while we count forgetting as the sworn enemy of learning, in some ways that’s wrong, too. Bjork showed that the two live in a kind of symbiosis in which forgetting actually aids recall.
“Because humans have unlimited storage capacity, having total recall would be a mess,” says Bjork. “Imagine you remembered all the phone numbers of all the houses you had ever lived in. When someone asks you your current phone number, you would have to sort it from this long list.” Instead, we forget the old phone numbers, or at least bury them far beneath theease of recall we gift to our current number. What you thought were sworn enemies are more like distant collaborators.
* Excerpted from Brain Trust: 93 Top Scientists Dish the Lab-Tested Secrets of Surfing, Dating, Dieting, Gambling, Growing Man-Eating Plants and More (Three Rivers Press, March 2012)
Garth Sundem is the bestselling author of Brain Candy, Geek Logik, and The Geeks’ Guide to World Domination. more…
Who is willing to admit that they still have what some psychological theories call a “transitional object“. Think it over after reading this and you will probably be surprised…
Source: Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
When Kaitlin Lipe was months old, someone gave her a Puffalump. The stuffed pink cow is more than two decades old now, but Lipe, , a social media manager in New York, can’t part with Puff. She gets comfort wrapping her arms around the childhood toy without all the meowing that comes from her real cat or the sassy comments she might get from her boyfriend.
“She is a reminder of my childhood, has always been a comfort to me, and is in every way a symbol for the happier times in life,” Lipe told LiveScience.
Lipe isn’t alone in her affection for what psychologists call a “security” or “transitional” object. These are objects that people feel a bond with, despite the fact that the relationship is, by definition, one-sided.
And while it may not be the social norm for grown-ups to lug around teddy bears, adults regularly become attached to inanimate objects in a manner similar to a child’s grip on a security blanket, researchers say.
There are no precise numbers on how many people carry a love for their childhood blankie into adulthood, but a survey of British adults by the hotel chain Travelodge in August found that percent admitted to sleeping with stuffed animals.
The survey is perhaps not the most scientific, but the phenomenon of adults with security objects is “a lot more common than people realize,” University of Bristol psychologist Bruce Hood told LiveScience. Hood has studied people’s sentimental attachments to objects, and he said the studies never lack for participants.
“We’ve had no problem finding adults, especially females, who have their child sentimental objects with them,” Hood said.
A study by psychologist and security object expert Richard Passman, now retired from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, found that around percent of kids are attached to a toy, blanket, or pacifier during the first three years of life. Until kids reach school age, there is no gender difference in attachment, but girls tend to pull ahead around age or , probably because of social pressure on boys to put away soft toys, Hood said.
Until the s, psychologists believed that these attachments were bad, reflecting a failing by the child’s mother.
But research by Passman and others began to contradict that notion. One study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology in 2000, for example, found that kids who had their beloved blankets with them at the doctor’s office experienced less distress, as measured by blood pressure and heart rate. Apparently, security blankets really do live up to their name.
Even as the need for a security object fades, the attachment may linger. One small study of middle-school students, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry in , found that while percent of girls and percent of boys still used their security object at age or , percent of the girls and percent of the boys still knew where the object was.
The essence of an object
So why might grown-ups harbor affection for a ratty old blanket or well-worn stuffed dog? Part of the reason is probably nostalgia, Hood said, but there seems to be a deep emotional attachment to the objects as well.
It’s called “essentialism,” or the idea that objects are more than just their physical properties.
Consider: If someone offered to replace a cherished item, like your wedding ring, with an exact, indistinguishable replica, would you accept? Most people refuse, Hood said, because they believe there is something special about their particular ring. It’s the same reason we might feel revulsion at wearing a shirt owned by a murderer. Objects are emotional.
Belief in essentialism starts early. In a 2007 study published in the journal Cognition, Hood and his colleagues told - to -year-old children that they could put their toys in a “copy box” that would exchange them for duplicates. The kids didn’t care whether they played with originals or duplicates of most toys, but when offered the chance to duplicate their most cherished item, percent refused. Most of those who did agree to duplicate their beloved toy wanted the original back right away, Hood reported. The kids had an emotional connection to that blanket, or that teddy bear, not one that looked just like it.
Even in adulthood, those emotions don’t fade. In a study published in August 2010 in the Journal of Cognition and Culture, Hood and his fellow researchers asked people to cut up photographs of a cherished item. While the participants cut, the researchers recorded their galvanic skin response, a measure of tiny changes in sweat production on the skin. The more sweat, the more agitated the person.
The results showed that participants had a significant stress response to cutting up pictures of their beloved item compared with cutting up a picture of a valuable or neutral item. People even became distressed when researchers had them cut up a picture of their cherished item that was blurred past recognition.
Mine, mine, mine
Researchers know little about what’s going on in the brain to bond us to certain objects. Hood is now using brain imaging to investigate what goes on when people watch videos of what looks like their cherished objects being destroyed.
However, studies on marketing and purchasing decisions suggest that our tendency to love objects goes beyond the soft and cuddly. [World's Cutest Baby Animals]
A 2008 study in the Journal of Judgment and Decision Making revealed that people who held onto a mug for seconds before bidding for it in an auction offered an average of cents more for it than people who held the mug for seconds.
The effect is even greater when the item is fun to touch, said Suzanne Shu, a professor of behavioral sciences in the school of management at the University of California, Los Angeles. She’s done studies finding that people get more attached to a pen with a “nice, smooshy grip” than an identical, gripless pen.
The findings seem to be an extension of what’s called the “endowment effect,” or people’s tendency to value things more when they feel ownership over it, Shu said.
“Part of the story of what happens with touch is it almost becomes an extension of yourself,” she said. “You feel like it’s more a part of you, and you just have this deeper attachment to it.”
Whether this touch-based attachment might relate to the love people feel for snuggly childhood teddy bears, no one yet knows. But human relationships to objects can certainly be long-running and deep.
“She’s been there for me when I’ve been sick, when I’ve been lonely and when I really needed a hug and no one was around,” Lipe said of her stuffed cow, citing the characters from Pixar’s Toy Story movies: “She’s the Woody and Buzz to my adulthood, really, a reminder of my past and definitely a connection to my family.”
The Experience of Recurring Panic Attacks
To understand panic disorder with agoraphobia, we must first talk about panic attacks. Sudden and recurring panic attacks are the hallmark symptoms of panic disorder. If you have never had recurring panic attacks, it may be hard to understand the difficulties your friend or loved one is going through. During a panic attack, the body’s alarm system is triggered without the presence of actual danger. The exact cause of why this happens is not known, but it is believed that there is a genetic and/or biological component.
Sufferers often use the terms fear, terror and horror to describe the frightening symptoms of a full-blown panic attack. But even these frightening words can’t convey the magnitude of the consuming nature of panic disorder. The fear becomes so intense that the thought of having another panic attack is never far from conscious thought. Incessant worry and feelings of overwhelming anxiety may become part of your loved one’s daily existence.
These Intense Symptoms Must Mean Something…Something Terrible
At the onset of panic disorder, your loved one may be quite certain they are suffering from a heart condition or other life-threatening illness. This may mean trips to the nearest emergency room and intensive testing to rule out physical disease. But, even when he or she is assured that these symptoms are not life-threatening, it does little to put his or her mind at ease. The feelings experienced during panic attacks are so overwhelming and uncontrollable, sufferers are convinced they are going to die or are going crazy.
A New Way of Life Emerges: Fear and Avoidance
So frightening are the symptoms of panic disorder, that your loved one may go to any and all lengths to avoid another attack from occurring. This may include many avoidant types of behavior and the development of agoraphobia. But, despite the efforts to avoid another panic episode, the attacks continue without rhyme or reason. There is no place to escape, and the sufferer becomes a prisoner of an insidious and illogical fear. Without appropriate treatment, your loved one may become so disabled that he or she is unable to leave his or her home at all.
Self Image Is Redefined
At times, we’ve all experienced nervousness, anxiousness, fear and, perhaps, even terror or horror. But in the midst of a catastrophic event, we understand these symptoms. Once the event is over, so, too, are the symptoms. But, imagine reliving these symptoms over and over again, without any warning or explanation.
This type of fear is life-changing. As abilities become inabilities, things once taken for granted, like going to into a store, become anxiety-filled events. Some enjoyable activities, like going to concerts or movies, may be avoided altogether. It is not uncommon for sufferers to experience a sense of shame, weakness and embarrassment as their self-image is redefined by fear.
Panic disorder is not just being nervous or anxious. Panic disorder is not just about the fear, terror and horror experienced during a full-blown panic attack because it does not end when the panic subsides. It is a disorder that is quick to invade and can alter one’s very essence, redefine one’s abilities and take over every aspect of one’s life.
Your Role As A Support Person
As a support person, you can play an important role in your loved one’s recovery process. Understanding what panic disorder is, and what it is not, will help you on this journey. Author Ken Strong provides a lot of information for supporting a person with panic disorder in his book, Anxiety:The Caregivers, Third Edition.
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It’s a question that many of us ask when terrible things happen. Where are the people who call themselves your friends when the going gets tough?
This reposted article from Harriet Brown of the New York Times may help you understand some of the possible answers.
Over the last few years, my family has weathered our share of crises. First our younger daughter was hospitalized for a week with Kawasaki disease, a rare condition in children that involves inflammation of the blood vessels, and spent several months convalescing at home. Soon after she recovered, our older daughter landed in the hospital with anorexia, which proved to be the start of a yearlong fight for her life.
Somewhere in the middle of that process, my mother-in-law was given a diagnosis of advanced lung cancer, and died less than months later.
So we’ve had plenty of opportunities to observe not only how we dealt with trauma but how our friends, family and community did, too. For the most part, we were blessed with support and love; friends ran errands for us, delivered meals, sat in hospital waiting rooms, walked, talked and cried with us.
But a couple of friends disappeared entirely. During the year we spent in eating-disorder hell, they called once or twice but otherwise behaved as though we had been transported to Mongolia with no telephones or e-mail.
At first, I barely noticed; I was overwhelmed with getting through each day. As the year wore on, though, and life settled in to a new if unpleasant version of normal, I began to wonder what had happened. Given our preoccupation with our daughter’s recovery and my husband’s mother’s illness, we were no doubt lousy company. Maybe we’d somehow offended our friends. Or maybe they were just sick of the disasters that now consumed our lives; just because we were stuck with them didn’t mean our friends had to go there, too.
Even if they were completely fed up with us, though, they had to know that my husband and I were going through the toughest year of our lives. I would have understood their defection if our friendship had been less close; as it was, I couldn’t stop wondering what had happened.
In the wake of /, two wars and the seemingly ever-rising tide of natural disasters, we’ve come to understand the various ways in which people cope with crisis when it happens to them. But psychologists are just beginning to explore the ways we respond to other people’s traumas.
“We all live in some degree of terror of bad things happening to us,” said Barbara M. Sourkes, associate professor of pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine. “When you’re confronted by someone else’s horror, there’s a sense that it’s close to home.”
Dr. Sourkes works with families confronted with the unfolding trauma of a child’s serious, and possibly fatal, illness. “Other people’s reactions are multifaceted,” she said. “There’s no formula, and it’ll change from person to person.” The only certainty is that traumatic events change relationships outside the family as well as within it.
Often the closer one feels to the family in crisis, the harder it is to cope. “Most people cannot tolerate the feeling of helplessness,” said Jackson Rainer, a professor of psychology at Georgia Southern University who has studied grief and relationships. “And in the presence of another’s crisis, there’s always the sense of helplessness.”
Feelings of vulnerability can lead to a kind of survivor’s guilt: People are grateful that the trauma didn’t happen to them, but they feel deeply ashamed of their reactions. Such emotional discomfort often leads them to avoid the family in crisis; as Dr. Sourkes put it, “They might, for instance, make sure they’re never in a situation where they have to talk to the family directly.”
Awkwardness is another common reaction — not knowing what to say or do. Some people say nothing; others, in a rush to relieve the feelings of awkwardness, blurt out well-intentioned but thoughtless comments, like telling the parent of a child with cancer, “My grandmother went through this, so I understand.”
“We have more of a societal framework for what to say and do around bereavement than we do when you’re in the midst of it,” Dr. Sourkes said. “Families say over and over, ‘It’s such a lonely time and I don’t have the energy to educate my friends and family, yet they don’t have a clue.’ ”
The more vulnerable people feel, the harder it may be to connect. A friend whose son suffered brain damage in an accident told me that the families who dropped them afterward had children the same age as her son. They could picture all too vividly the same thing happening to their children; they felt too much empathy rather than not enough.
That was true for us, too, I realized. The friends who had disappeared had daughters exactly the same age as ours.
Dr. Rainer describes this kind of distancing as “stiff-arming” — creating as much space as possible from the possibility of trauma. It’s magical thinking in the service of denial: If bad things are happening to you and I stay away from you, then I’ll be safe.
Such people often wind up offering what Dr. Rainer calls pseudo-care, asking vaguely if there’s anything they can do but never following up. Or they might say they’re praying for the family in crisis, a response he dismisses as ineffectual at best. “A more compassionate response,” he said, “is ‘I am praying for myself to have the courage to help you.
True empathy inspires what sociologists call instrumental aid. “There are any number of tasks to be done, and they’re as personal as your thumbprint,” Dr. Rainer said. If you really want to help a family in crisis, offer to do something specific: drive the carpool, weed the garden, bring a meal, do the laundry, go for a walk.
I tested that theory recently, when a friend’s mother went through a series of medical crises and moved to an assisted-living facility in our town. Normally, I might have been guilty of pseudo-care, asking if I could do anything but never really stepping up. Instead, I e-mailed her a list of tasks I could do, and asked if any of them would be helpful.
To my surprise, my friend responded by asking if I’d visit her mother on a day she couldn’t. Her mother was glad for the company, and my friend felt reassured, knowing that her mother wasn’t alone.
And I had the chance to do something truly useful for my friend, which in turn let me show her how much I cared about her. The time I spent with her mother turned out to be a gift for me.
Thinking back to my own years of crisis, I wondered why I’d focused on the friends who didn’t come through when so many others had. In retrospect, I wished I’d taken a slightly more Zen-like attitud
“The human condition is that traumatic events occur,” said David B. Adams, a psychologist in private practice in Atlanta. “The reality is that we are equipped to deal with them. The challenge that lies before us is quite often more important than the disappointment that surrounds us.”
Harriet Brown is the author of “Brave Girl Eating: A Family’s Struggle With Anorexia,” being published next week.
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A Spoonful Of Sugar DOES Makes The Medicine Go Down! Sweet Solutions Reduce Kids Experience Of Pain From Needles
Healthcare professionals should consider giving infants aged - months a sweet solution of sucrose or glucose before immunising a child, the international team of researchers recommended, because of the child’s improved reaction to injections.
Existing research shows the effectiveness of giving newborn infants and those beyond the newborn period, a small amount (e.g. a few drops to about half a teaspoon) of sucrose and glucose as analgesics during minor painful procedures.
Little is known, however, about the effect of such solutions on pain, so a team of researchers from Toronto in Canada, Melbourne in Australia and Sao Paulo in Brazil, funded by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Knowledge Synthesis grant, collected the findings from relevant trials involving injections given to children aged - months.
They found that giving a child a small amount of sweet solution, compared to water or no treatment moderately decreased crying in the child during or following immunisation in of the studies (%).
The authors conclude that infants aged - months given sucrose or glucose before immunisation had cried less often and for less time.
The amount of glucose or sucrose given made a difference and the researchers found that infants receiving % glucose in some trials were almost half as likely to cry following immunisation.
The researchers could not identify the ideal dose of sucrose or glucose because of the variety of volumes and concentrations used in the various trials.
Analgesic effects of sweet solutions given to older infants were more moderate than those in newborn infants.
They conclude: “Healthcare professionals responsible for administering immunisations should consider using sucrose or glucose during painful procedures.
“This information is important for healthcare professionals working with infants in both inpatient and out-patient settings, as sweet solutions are readily available, have a very short onset of time to analgesia, are inexpensive and are easy to administer.”
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