brainhealth

Early childhood adversities linked to health problems in tweens, teens.

 

Repost from eurekalert

Study is first to point to brain changes that underlie poor health in some children

 

Washington School of Medicine

 

Adverse experiences in childhood -- such as the death of a parent, growing up in poverty, physical or sexual abuse, or having a parent with a psychiatric illness -- have been associated with physical and mental health problems later in life. But new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has shown that multiple adverse experiences in early childhood are linked to depression and physical health problems in kids as young as 9 to 15. Further, the researchers have identified a potential pathway in the brain to explain how such stressful experiences influence poor health in kids.

The researchers found that a key brain structure involved in regulating emotions and decision-making is smaller in kids who have lived through three or more adverse experiences before the age of 8, compared with kids whose lives were more stable. Young children who faced multiple adverse experiences also were 15 percent more likely to develop severe depression by their preteen and early teen years and 25 percent more likely to have physical health problems, such as asthma and gastrointestinal disorders. Due to the health problems, these kids were more likely to miss school.

The new findings are published Oct. 30 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

"We did not expect we would see health problems in children so young," said senior investigator and Washington University child psychiatrist Joan L. Luby, MD. "Our findings demonstrate how powerful the psychosocial environment can be. A child's brain doesn't develop based solely on its genetic infrastructure. It's influenced by the stresses of poverty, violence, the loss of a parent, and other adverse experiences, which together can have serious health consequences evident as early as the teen and preteen years."

The study involved 119 children, who were ages 3 to 6 when the project began. The researchers tracked adverse experiences in the kids' lives -- which also included experiences such as natural disasters, a parent's arrest, or a parent with a serious illness requiring hospitalization. The children in the study averaged more than five such experiences before the age of 8.

The researchers also performed multiple MRI brain scans of these children when they were ages 6 to 13. The first scans, performed when the children reached school age, showed that the inferior frontal gyrus was smaller in children who had more adverse experiences. The researchers also determined that the structure appears to be part of a pathway through which the stresses of adverse childhood experiences may influence mental and physical health.

"People exposed to adversity early in life experience changes in the volume of the inferior frontal gyrus that probably can make children more vulnerable to behavioral issues and bad decision-making," theorized Luby, director of Washington University's Early Emotional Development Program. "We suspect that such changes are associated with issues such as poor diet, risky and more dangerous behavior and generally not taking very good care of yourself, and overall, this contributes to poorer mental and physical health outcomes."

Previous research has connected adverse childhood experiences to problems such as cancer, heart disease and mental illness in older people, but no one had looked at whether those stressful experiences are linked to health problems in adolescents. And until now, researchers had not been able to explain how such experiences could contribute to poor health in these kids.

The researchers found that when kids had three or more adverse experiences, they also had smaller brain volumes that, in turn, were associated with lower scores on a scale that measures how well a child expresses emotions. Poor emotional expression has been associated with depression and worse social and emotional outcomes.

Such children also had more physical health problems. Parents reported that kids who had more adverse experiences were more likely to have significant health problems that appeared to affect school attendance.

In earlier research, Luby, who also is the Samuel and Mae S. Ludwig Professor of Psychiatry, found that kids can be resilient and, with nurturing parenting, may be able to overcome individual stressors such as poverty or the loss of a parent. This new research indicates that when kids accumulate multiple stressors, the experiences pile up and cause problems early in their lives, and family members and doctors need to be aware of the powerful influence of these psychosocial risks so that kids can get the help they need.

Luby added that the study could alter the way doctors and researchers think about the development of disease.

"We know toxins in the environment can contribute to disease, but this study suggests that kids can experience physical and mental health problems from exposure to psychosocial 'toxins,' too," she said.

Luby and her colleagues plan to continue tracking the health of these children as they grow into adulthood. Meanwhile, the researchers also are beginning a multidisciplinary study to follow pregnant women and their infants to see whether psychosocial stressors and adversity experienced during pregnancy and the first three years of a child's life also affect brain development and overall health.

 

Luby JL, Barch D, Whalen D, Tillman R, Belden A. Association between early life adversity and risk for poor emotional and physical health in adolescence: a putative mechanistic neurodevelopmental pathway. JAMA Pediatrics, Oct. 30, 2017. DOI:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.3009

This work was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), grant numbers MH090786.

Washington University School of Medicine's 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient-care institutions in the nation, currently ranked seventh in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.

 

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Scientist explores the mysteries of the gut - connection

By Karen Frances Eng

The brain in your head and the one in your gut are always exchanging info. But how do they do it? Neuroscientist Diego Bohórquez is trying to find out the answers.

If you were asked where the human body’s nervous system is located, you’d probably answer “the brain” or “the spinal cord.” But besides the central nervous system, which consists of those two organs, our bodies also contain the enteric nervous system, a two-layer lining with more than 100 million nerve cells that spans our guts from the esophagus to the rectum. The enteric nervous system has been called “the second brain,” and it’s in constant contact with the one in our skull. That’s why just thinking about food can lead your stomach to start secreting enzymes, or why giving a speech can lead to your feeling queasy.

Until recently, scientists thought the two systems communicated solely via hormones produced by enteroendocrine cells scattered throughout the gut’s lining. After sensing food or bacteria, the cells release molecular messengers that prompt the nervous system to modulate behavior. But it turns out the process may be much more direct. Intriguingly, Duke University gut-brain neuroscientist Diego Bohórquez, a TED Fellow, has found that some enteroendocrine cells also make physical contact with the enteric nervous system, forming synapses with nerves. This revelation opens the door to rethinking how we might affect these signals — and might someday change how we treat conditions as varied as obesity, anorexia, irritable bowel syndrome, autism and PTSD.

What fueled Bohórquez’s interest in the gut-brain connection? Chickens.After he moved to the US from Ecuador, his first position was as a visiting research scholar at North Carolina State University, where he worked in a nutrition laboratory that focused on chickens. “In poultry production, the biggest challenge is to feed the hatchling chicks as soon as possible so the bird can achieve its maximum growth potential,” Bohórquez says. “My PhD advisor came up with the idea to feed the chicks in the egg before they hatch. This in-ovo feeding consisted of delivering enzymes into the amniotic fluid of the embryo right before it hatched.” Bohórquez was surprised at how this practice changed what the chicks did after they hatched. “The unfed chickens came out of the egg and slept for five or six hours. But the ones fed in ovo went straight to eat,” he says. “They were also more alert, spent time looking around, and pecked each other. I became intrigued about how ingested nutrients alter behavior.”

A friend’s gastric bypass surgery also fueled his curiosity. “A friend was struggling with obesity and, as a last resort, decided to have gastric bypass surgery. It worked. She lost a lot of weight, and it resolved her diabetes,” he recalls. “But most strikingly, her perception of taste changed. She used to be repulsed by the sight of runny egg yolks, but after the surgery, she craved them.” Such a change in taste has been well documented in some patients who’ve undergone bariatric surgery, but scientists aren’t sure how or why it happens, says Bohórquez. “It’s a new subject, but rewiring the gut appears to physically change how we perceive the taste of food in the brain.”

While scientists have known that nutrients are sensed in the gut by enteroendocrine cells, the exact way this happens was murky. They understood that when stimulated, enteroendocrine cells release hormones that either enter the bloodstream or activate nearby nerves to affect how we eat. “My focus has been to figure out how a sensory signal from a nutrient is transformed into an electrical signal that alters behavior,” Bohórquez says. He and his colleagues began taking a close look at enteroendocrine cells, using 3D electron microscopy. Imaging them in this way revealed a whole new structure that hadn’t been seen before. “It turns out enteroendocrine cells not only have microvilli, or tiny protrusions, exposed to the gut, but they also have a foot-like extension, which we called the neuropod,” says Bohórquez. “It became evident that enteroendocrine cells have similar physical attributes to neurons, so we wondered whether they might be wired to neurons, too.”

The secret to tracking synaptic connections: a special kind of rabies. The key to illuminating the process was inserting a tiny amount of modified fluorescent rabies virus into the colon of a mouse. “Rabies is a virus that infects neurons and spreads through synaptic connections, so when used in a modified form that only allows it to jump one neuron at a time, it’s useful for tracking neural circuits,” Bohórquez explains. Seven days after undergoing this procedure, the enteroendocrine cells of the mouse colon glowed green, offering evidence that the sensor cells were indeed behaving as neurons. Bohórquez then bred a mouse that would allow the tracking rabies to make a second jump. When he delivered the tracking rabies into the colon of this new mouse, the enteroendocrine cells and the nerves that they connected to lit up, demonstrating the existence of a physical synapse between the sensor cells and its nervous system — and a physical connection that hadn’t been seen before.

Charting the communication pathway between the gut and brain could someday lead us to new treatments for disorders and conditions. A number of diseases — autism, obesity, anorexia, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, PTSD and chronic stress — share a symptom known as altered visceral sensing, or a hyper- or hyposensitivity to gut stimuli. “For instance, clinical observations have suggested that some children with anorexia may be hyper-aware of the food they ingest from an early age,” says Bohórquez. “Under normal circumstances, this process happens without detailed spatial and temporal awareness, but those children can feel what’s going on in there, which triggers anxious feelings.” With this knowledge, scientists may better understand other disorders that have been thought to be solely psychological.

Can our enteroendocrine cells smell, taste and touch? They possess the same molecular receptors that enable mechanical, chemical and thermal sensing in your nose and mouth, says Bohórquez. “These mechanisms are just beginning to be studied, and it’s where research is headed.” And beyond the gut, he points out, the lining of our body’s organs — including our lungs, prostate and vagina — all possess sensor cells similar to enteroendocrine cells. “Future exploration will continue to uncover how the brain perceives signals from these organs and how they affect how we feel,” he says.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Frances Eng is a contributing writer to TED.com, dedicated to covering the feats of the wondrous TED Fellows. Her launchpad is located in Cambridge, UK.

How people with sports addiction are like drug addicts

Repost from Aeon by Karin Jongsma who is a bioethicist at the University Medical Centre of Göttingen in Germany. She is interested in identity, technology, representation and autonomy, and is currently working on a research project concerning collective representation in healthcare policy.

Participation in sports is a highly visible aspect of 21st-century life, with a normative dimension. Sport benefits health, encourages self-discipline, and develops character and teamwork. The positive physiological and psychological effects of sport and an active lifestyle are scientifically well-known: improved cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, lower risk of osteoporosis and depression, and an increased life expectancy. Based on all this good news, one might wonder whether there is any downside.

‘Sports addiction’ sounds paradoxical, because we usually reserve the word ‘addiction’ for things that are recognisably bad for us, such as illicit-drug use or alcoholism, but there really is a sense in which you can become addicted to exercise. Even modest athletes can relate to the famous ‘high’ after exercising, triggered by the release of ‘happiness hormones’ such as dopamine and endorphins, which have mood-altering effects. These effects, like those produced by illicit drugs and alcohol, can be habit-forming. As in any addiction, ‘highs’ are important for getting hooked, but the development of an addiction depends on many external factors, too. Sports addiction is not taken seriously by everyone, however: ‘there are worse things to be addicted to’ mockers suggest, as if the term ‘addiction’ is only a metaphor. Sports addiction is, however, real, non-metaphorical, and harmful.

Sport addicts share many symptoms with other sorts of addicts. They harm their bodies: this is because they do not give them the chance of recovering from working out, often because of the intensity, duration and frequency of their training sessions. Sport becomes so much an obsession that such people don’t take time to recover from injuries. Incidence of heart attacks and osteoporosis increase at high levels of exertion, so sports addicts can put themselves at serious risk of harm.

But it is not just a question of physical damage: sports addicts suffer psychological damage too: they become dependent on training for feeling good, and life away from training becomes dull. They can also develop tolerance to the ‘high’, and so need more and more exercise to get the same result. When not exercising, they experience withdrawal effects, depression and anxiety. Sports addiction has negative social effects, too: addicts cancel meetings because they prefer training over friends, family and work, or are mentally not present when they are with other people, so preoccupied are they with mentally preparing for that next training session high.

The complexity of sports addiction lies in the fact that a reasonable amount of exercise and sport is good, but too much can be very harmful indeed. However, such harmful effects are not understood nor widely recognised, as the social perception of sports addiction differs significantly from other types of addiction.

But is it as simple as this? Is sports addiction always something to be ashamed of, something to be treated or overcome? In other areas of physical prowess, significant harm is tolerated for the sake of an outstanding outcome, and might even be the price paid for excellence. Many ballet dancers have ruined feet, for example; and many musicians have injuries as a result of over-practice or repetition in performance. Similarly, many professional boxers suffer from brain damage through repeated sparring, and athletes, footballers and rugby players have been badly injured during high-level sports training.

But these are highly talented people capable of beautiful, exciting and sometimes dangerous things, which ordinary people will never be able to do. Are all of them addicts? Probably not. However, many of them tread a fine line between devotion and addiction, and illustrate how obsessive devotion, beyond ordinary levels, has the double potential both for great achievement and for significant self-harm. If we value the achievement, perhaps we will have to accept that there will be some collateral damage along the way.

Human Voices Are More Than Just Sound ...

 

To make sense of human voices, we rely on senses beyond hearing. The songs of Taylor Swift can be sweet and soft. Lady Gaga's singing feels dark. Johnny Cash's voice was low and rough. That's because voice is not just sound: It can be seen and heard, but also tasted and touched. The sound we hear in voice creates "multisensory images" — drawing in perceptions from many senses, not just one.

The phenomenon of multisensory perception can help us to understand why we assign metaphorical properties of softness, roughness, or depth to voice. Think of a politician whose voice is flat. Flatness is a multisensory concept because it is both tactile and visual. We can recognize flat surfaces by either touching or seeing them. These sensory impressions inform us about the acoustic characteristics of voice, implying that it does not have variation in tone. Notably, flatness can also convey lack of sympathy and emotion on the part of the speaker. 

Softness is another common way to present the auditory perception of sound. Like flatness, it can describe not only the sound quality but also the speaker's emotional state. And what about sharpness, a descriptor that might relate to both tactile and visual experience? Calling a voice sharp could be a metaphor for an aggressive, nasty speaker — or a means of describing acoustic, vocal sounds.

Multisensory images allow us to identify and deal with things that can harm or benefit us. A falling mortar shell, a jumping tiger, or a skidding car are not just auditory or visual images: They are perceived as multisensory images and can be conceived of as potential life threats. In cognitive psychology, it is generally recognized that, as Vanessa Harrar of the University of Oxford puts it, "integrating information from individual senses increases the chance of survival by reducing the variability in the incoming signals, thus allowing us to respond more rapidly." In fact, notes Harrar, when the components of the multisensory signals are simultaneous, our reaction time is fastest of all. 

The psychologist Charles Spence at the University of Oxford has done extensive research on how humans integrate sensory information with respect to culinary experience, finding that vision and hearing can change how food tastes. One study found that desserts tasted sweeter on a white plate than a black plate. Another study found that heavy cutlery made food taste better.

The multisensory perceptions that result in metaphors help us to think about relatively abstract things with more familiar ideas. In Metaphors We Live By (2003), the linguist George Lakoff and the philosopher Mark Johnson, who devised "conceptual metaphor theory," say that humans use concrete ideas to understand abstract phenomena. Linguistic and psychological research supports the idea that metaphors empower our abstract thought about timemoneymoralitydeath, and even orgasm. Time, for example, is an abstract idea, and we tend to understand it through the more concrete-seeming experience of space: Time can flow, and it can stand still. Our past is better left behind, because our future lies ahead. Indifference or hostility are complex social concepts that can be conveyed through the experience of feeling cold. Coldness is tangible and vividly communicates the message. If someone's voice is described as cold, people associate this sensory image with the emotional state of the speaker. In a similar vein, the acoustic properties of voice can be associated with other sensory experiences. A sharp voice can refer to both vision and the sense of touch.

Depicting how something "feels" is one of the most common ways we use metaphors, especially when describing voices. That makes enormous sense because touch is a much earlier evolutionary development than speech, and is vital in daily life. In Consciousness and the World (2000), the Australian philosopher Brian O'Shaughnessy considered touch the primordial sense because "it is scarcely to be distinguished from the having of a body that can act in physical space." And the evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar at the University of Oxford argues that touch plays a significant role in social bonding in primates (including humans). Writing here at Aeon, the integrative biologist Steven Phelps at the University of Texas draws on Dunbar's research to argue that the use of touch for strengthening social relationships among primates appears to be 30 million years old.

Voice as a medium for language is a recent development in evolutionary terms, but it has become a crucial part of our social interactions. And it does not stand alone. We rely on a panoply of sensory experiences to navigate the medium of sound. The multisensory ensemble helps us to discuss a speaker's emotions and feelings through the conveyance of voice, creating interior meaning through metaphor. Description of touch and other senses can illuminate voice's deep meaning and its acoustic properties at once. Next time you hear a soft voice, reflect on the engaging feeling of softness that makes your experience so much more meaningful.

This article was originally published by Aeon.

Raising Your Vibration - Marilyn Allen PhD

Move your body around

Have faith

Have good intentions

Listen to your gut instinct

Have self belief

Think happy thoughts

Play music

Smile

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Let's Talk About ... Hibiscus Tea Marilyn Allen PhD

Also known as Agua de Jamaica.

- rich in Vitamin C
- can help with digestive issues
- can help with circulation issues
- can help with cholesterol issues
- can help support the immune system
- can help manage blood pressure issues (AHA 2008)
- can help manage hormonal issues
- said to be beneficial for weight issues
- said to be beneficial for sugar regulation issues- said to help with urinary tract issues
- can be drunk hot or cold
- very refreshing
- very reasonably priced

photocredit: naturalhealthonline

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Let's Talk About ... Nuts - Marilyn Allen PhD

Eating tree nuts lower the risk of :

- cancers
- infection
- diabetes
- cardiovascular issues
- mortality

So... macademia, pecans, hazelnuts, pine, almonds and cashew nuts are the snacks to have at least once a day. Watch out for high salt content!

Photocredit: Befituk

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Let's Talk About ... Good Fats

Real fats are good. Industrial fats are bad. Very simple. So... cut out the bad fats. Eat whole good fats (not half fat, skinny fat, skimmed fat etc). Invest in yourself. Let your health be your wealth.

Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil

Link Between Inflammation and Mental Illness - Repost from Neurosciencestuff

Link Between Inflammation and Mental Illness - Neurosciencestuff

A surprising new link between inflammation and mental illness

Up to 75 percent of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus – an incurable autoimmune disease commonly known as lupus – experience neuropsychiatric symptoms. But so far, our understanding of the mechanisms underlying lupus’ effects on the brain has remained murky. Now, new research from Boston Children’s Hospital has shed light on the mystery and points to a potential new drug for protecting the brain from the neuropsychiatric effects of lupus and other central nervous system (CNS) diseases. The team has published its surprising findings in Nature.

“In general, lupus patients commonly have a broad range of neuropsychiatric symptoms, including anxiety, depression, headaches, seizures, even psychosis,” says Allison Bialas, PhD, first author on the study and a research fellow working in the lab of Michael Carroll, PhD, senior author on the study, who are part of the Boston Children’s Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine. “But their cause has not been clear – for a long time it wasn’t even appreciated that these were symptoms of the disease.

Collectively, lupus’ neuropsychiatric symptoms are known as central nervous system (CNS) lupus. Carroll’s team wondered if changes in the immune system in lupus patients were directly causing these symptoms from a pathological standpoint.

"How does chronic inflammation affect the brain?”

Lupus, which affects at least 1.5 million Americans, causes the immune systems to attack the body’s tissues and organs. This causes the body’s white blood cells to release type 1 interferon-alpha, a small cytokine protein that acts as a systemic alarm, triggering a cascade of additional immune activity as it binds with receptors in different tissues.

Until now, however, these circulating cytokines were not thought to be able to cross the blood brain barrier, the highly-selective membrane that controls the transfer of materials between circulating blood and the central nervous system (CNS) fluids.

“There had not been any indication that type 1 interferon could get into the brain and set off immune responses there,” says Carroll, who is also professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

So, working with a mouse model of lupus, it was quite unexpected when Carroll’s team discovered that enough interferon-alpha did indeed appear to permeate the blood brain barrier to cause changes in the brain. Once across the barrier, it launched microglia – the immune defense cells of the CNS – into attack mode on the brain’s neuronal synapses. This caused synapses to be lost in the frontal cortex.

“We’ve found a mechanism that directly links inflammation to mental illness,” says Carroll. “This discovery has huge implications for a range of central nervous system diseases.”

Blocking inflammation’s effects on the brain

The team decided to see if they could reduce synapse loss by administering a drug that blocks interferon-alpha’s receptor, called an anti-IFNAR.

Remarkably, they found that anti-IFNAR did seem to have neuro-protective effects in mice with lupus, preventing synapse loss when compared with mice who were not given the drug. What’s more, they noticed that mice treated with anti-IFNAR had a reduction in behavioral signs associated with mental illnesses such as anxiety and cognitive defects.

Although further study is needed to determine exactly how interferon-alpha is crossing the blood brain barrier, the team’s findings establish a basis for future clinical trials to investigate the effects of anti-IFNAR drugs on CNS lupus and other CNS diseases. One such anti-IFNAR, anifrolumab, is currently being evaluated in a phase 3 human clinical trial for treating other aspects of lupus.

“We’ve seen microglia dysfunction in other diseases like schizophrenia, and so now this allows us to connect lupus to other CNS diseases,” says Bialas. “CNS lupus is not just an undefined cluster of neuropsychiatric symptoms, it’s a real disease of the brain – and it’s something that we can potentially treat.”

The implications go beyond lupus because inflammation underpins so many diseases and conditions, ranging from Alzheimer’s to viral infection to chronic stress.

“Are we all losing synapses, to some varying degree?” Carroll suggests. His team plans to find out

The Power Of Your Brain - Marilyn Allen PhD

It is said that you have about 70,000 thoughts every day. Meditation could increase your IQ and relieve stress. The subconscious mind controls 95% of our thoughts whilst the conscious mind controls our brains only about 5% of the day. Our brains are made of two thirds of fat. Replenishing these fats is essential for the brain to function properly and prevent diseases like depression, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's Disease. Listening to music changes the structure of it and strengthens the brain. The brain makes mental meaning of your thoughts turning them into physical reality. Enjoy looking after your brain and reap the rewards but most of all, enjoy your chosen genre of music!

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