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Stanford psychophysiology lab: social anxiety, mindfulness with kids, & loving kindness

Emotional reappraisal (changing the way we see a situation) and emotional suppression (inhibiting our already present emotional response) have very different effects on our feelings, relationships and wellbeing.  As a generalisation, reappraisal tends to work well, while suppression comes at higher cost.  I wrote about this last month  in a first post on James Gross's Psychophysiology Lab at Stanford . I went on, in a subsequent post, to put together a handout on reappraisal entitled Getting a better perspective.

Because there is so much interesting research being conducted at the Stanford Lab, I thought it worthwhile to write a further post mentioning some of this other work.  The webpage detailing their current research projects mentions nine different areas.  These include the following descriptions:

Recent research: six papers on helping children & adolescents

Here are half a dozen papers on helping kids and adolescents.  The Fuligni et al paper found that adolescents experiencing frequent interpersonal stresses tended to have increased levels of C-reactive protein, " ... an inflammatory marker that is a key indicator of cardiovascular risk ... ".  Jackson et al showed that in preschool kids each extra hour of regular TV viewing is associated with an extra 1 kg of body fat.  This appeared to be due to increases in calorie intake rather than reduction in physical activity.  Decreased family accommodation is associated with improved outcome in paediatric OCD, Merlo et al found.  Naylor et al found that a six lesson teaching block on mental health benefitted young teenagers.  Proctor et al provide a free full text overview of teenage life satisfaction assessment measures, while Wilkinson and colleagues report on 28 week follow-up in a treatment trial for depressed adolescents.  The authors found "Depression at 28 weeks was predicted by the additive effects of severity, obsessive-compulsive disorder and suicidal ideation at entry together with presence of at least one disappointing life event over the follow-up period.

Recent research: five papers on overweight - mortality, cardiovascular risk, diets, and schools

Here are five papers mostly looking at aspects of overweight.  The first, published recently in the Lancet, is a huge study on the effects of body-mass index (BMI) on subsequent mortality in nearly 900,000 adults.  It shows progressive excess mortality above the BMI range 22.5-25 kg/m2.  (To calculate your BMI click here).  At 40-45 kg/m2, the reduction in life expectancy of 8-10 years is comparable to the effects of being a smoker.  The second paper, by Neovius et al, also involved large numbers - over 45,000 older adolescents.  Again it showed excess mortality at long term follow-up, and commented "Obesity and overweight were as hazardous as heavy and light smoking, respectively".  The third study by Katseva et al looked at modifiable risk factors in European patients with cardiac disease.  The findings were depressing with obesity, for example, increasing stepwise from 25% at first survey, to 32.6% at second, to 38% at third survey.  Overall the authors concluded "These time trends show a compelling need for more effective lifestyle management of patients with coronary heart disease ... To salvage the acutely ischaemic myocardium without addressing the underlying causes of the disease is futile; we need to invest in prevention." 

Recent research: five papers on childhood trauma, parenting & health in adulthood

Here are five papers on childhood, the effects childhood experience can have on adulthood, and the effects adults may then have on their own children.  The first paper by Brody et al. is the encouraging one.  It demonstrates how caring parenting can combat genetic vulnerability - "involved-supportive" mothering greatly reduced the link between vulnerable genes and subsequent youth substance abuse.  The Van Meurs et al study shows the reverse - how problem behaviours in one generation of children increases the likelihood that, when these children become parents themselves, their own children will develop similar problem behaviours.

Recent research: a mixed bag of six papers on anxiety

Here are half a dozen papers with anxiety relevance.  The first couple are about the interaction between genetic vulnerability (or resilience) and childhood experience.  The Stevens et al paper is an update on the large body of research looking at psychological genetic vulnerability/resilience in macaque monkeys and how this interacts with parenting quality to lead, or not lead, to emotional and neurophysiological disturbances in adulthood.  The Battaglia paper particularises this gene/environment investigation by looking at the connections between early human childhood separation anxiety, loss of a parent, and panic disorder in adulthood.  

NICE guidelines: January guidance including antisocial personality disorder

Yesterday NICE - the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in England & Wales - published guidance on a diverse range of fifteen clinical, technology, interventional and public health subjects.  Their clinical guidance on Medicines Adherence  interested me, as too did their public health guidance on Promoting Physical Activity for Children and Young People.  The subject of this post is the clinical guidance on Antisocial Personality Disorder and in my next post, I'll talk about their guidance on Borderline Personality Disorder.  As Dr Tim Kendall, Joint Director, National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, states: "Approximately 2 million people in the UK have personality disorders, with antisocial and borderline disorders being the most common.

Recent research: six studies on prevalence of depression & anxiety, and risk factors for depression, bipolar disorder & suicide

Here are a couple of studies on the prevalence of depression and anxiety, and four on risk factors for depression, bipolar disorder and suicide.  Strine et al report on a major survey of depression and anxiety in the United States.  They found "The overall prevalence of current depressive symptoms was 8.7% (range by state and territory, 5.3%-13.7%); of a lifetime diagnosis of depression, 15.7% (range, 6.8%-21.3%); and of a lifetime diagnosis of anxiety, 11.3% (range, 5.4%-17.2%)."  Smoking, lack of exercise, and excessive drinking were all associated with increased likelihood of mental disorders, as too was physical ill health.  Young et al, in a separate study, looked at the likelihood of depression and anxiety becoming persistent.  They estimated - at nearly 3 year follow-up - that the US prevalence of persistent depressive or anxiety disorder was 4.7%.  Only about a quarter of these sufferers were using appropriate medication and only about a fifth appropriate counselling.

Recent research: prevention & treatment of overweight with changed eating behaviours, energy density & breastfeeding

Here are six studies on eating and weight.  The first, by Maruyama and colleagues, demonstrates a strong association between both "eating until full" and "eating quickly" and the chances of being overweight.  The linked BMJ editorial by Denney-Wilson & Campbell discusses these findings further, including suggesting that "Clinicians should encourage parents to adopt a child led feeding strategy that acknowledges a child's desire to stop eating that begins from birth. Reassure parents that well children don't starve."  Unfortunately Llewellyn et al show that eating rate seems to be partly genetically determined - an even stronger reason to work hard to go against any tendency to gobble food.  The Denney-Wilson editorial gives other ways to encourage weight loss, and Leahy and colleagues underlines the value of one such approach - reducing the energy density (ED) of diets " ...  by decreasing fat and sugar and by increasing fruit and vegetables."  Children whose diet was changed in this way " ...

Recent research: seven studies on diet, supplements & smoking

Here are a couple of studies on smoking, a couple on B vitamins, a couple on vitamin D, and an intriguing study on iron.  The smoking papers underline the varieties of damage this habit produces.  So the Pasco et al study shows that, for women, being a smoker is associated with double the risk of developing subsequent major depression.  The Strandberg research challenges any notion of "Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die".  This study of 1658 men reports that "During the 26-year follow-up of this socioeconomically homogeneous male cohort, HRQoL (quality of life) deteriorated with an increase in daily cigarettes smoked in a dose-dependent manner.

Recent research: mothers, children & depression

Here are five recent papers on mothers, families, children and depression.  The first is a freely viewable editorial by Markowitz which begins with a quote from the Aeneid "I cannot bear a mother's tears".  Markowitz looks at evidence demonstrating the importance of both nature (genetic risk) and nurture (effects of the mother-child relationship and other environmental factors) on psychological outcomes.  The second paper is a good overview of postnatal depression by Musters et al.  Unfortunately the full text is only viewable if you are a BMJ subscriber or if you pay for the article (or contact the authors).  The third study looks at the benefits for children of effective treatment for maternal depression.  The fourth paper - a freely viewable editorial by Reiss - looks both at the effects of maternal depression on children and the effects of children's psychological symptoms on mothers.  The fifth study is unusual and interesting as it compares the effects of parental depression on both nonadopted and on adopted children.

Markowitz, J. C. (2008). "Depressed Mothers, Depressed Children." Am J Psychiatry 165(9): 1086-1088. [Free Full Text]

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