Research Roundup

  • Children with nonverbal learning disability may have a difference in their brain structures.The brains of children with a nonverbal learning disability may develop differently than the brains of other children, finds research co-authored by Kayla Musielak, a Michigan State University doctoral student in school psychology. Investigators used MRI scans to study the brains of about 150 children ages 8 to 18. They found that the children diagnosed with nonverbal learning disability had smaller spleniums — the part of the corpus callosum that connects the left and right hemispheres — than children with other disorders, such as Asperger's syndrome and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and children without learning disorders. The researchers also found that the brains of children with nonverbal learning disabilities — assessed while the children were shown videos of positive and negative social interaction — responded differently to the interactions than the brains of children with high-functioning autism. That finding suggests that the neural pathways underlying those conditions may be different, the authors say (Child Neuropsychology, online Nov. 12).
  • When people are depressed and have post-traumatic stress disorder, their PTSD symptoms lessen when treatment helps them rapidly overcome their depressive symptoms, according to a study led by Stephanie Keller, a psychology doctoral student at Case Western Reserve University. The researchers examined 84 PTSD patients treated only with medication, and another 116 who had 10 therapy sessions to help them revisit their trauma and better cope with their fears. Researchers found that patients experienced ups and downs in depression during both treatment types, but those who had rapid decreases in depression symptoms improved more during PTSD treatment than those who had gradual symptom changes. The study also suggests that a lack of social support from family or friends was associated with a worsening of depression symptoms for people who received medication or therapy for PTSD (Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, February).
  • Religious people are more likely to feel like they're addicted to pornography than less religious people are, finds research led by Joshua Grubbs, a psychology doctoral student at Case Western Reserve University. In three studies with more than 600 adults — mostly Christian of various denominations — Grubbs polled people about their strength of faith, religious practices, online porn-viewing habits and moral attitudes about porn. He also asked participants to complete a survey measuring their perceptions of addiction. Compared with their less religious peers, participants who identified themselves as very religious were more likely to report a perceived Internet pornography addiction no matter how much porn they actually consumed (Archives of Sexual Behavior, February).
  • Internet search engines offer relatively high-quality results about mental health disorders, according to a study co-authored by Rebecca Granda, a psychology doctoral student at Louisiana Tech University, and Joseph Slimowicz, a psychology doctoral student at Nova Southeastern University. The researchers examined the first 20 search results on Google and Bing for 11 common mental health terms, including bipolar disorder, anxiety and schizophrenia. They found that the quality of website results varied based on type of disorder examined, with higher-quality websites found for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and dysthymia, and lower-quality ratings for phobia, anxiety and panic disorder websites. Overall, however, nearly 68 percent of the search result websites provided reliable content, based on the researchers' analysis using several evaluations often used by health professionals to assess the quality of written information on treatment choices for a health problem (Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, online Nov. 16).
  • Women prefer masculine men during ovulation, but they don't really see them as long-term partners.Women prefer masculine men during ovulation, but they don't really see them as long-term partners, according to a meta-analysis led by Kelly Gildersleeve, a psychology doctoral student at the University of California, Los Angeles. Researchers analyzed 50 published and unpublished studies on women's preferences for mates and how they changed during their menstrual cycles. The researchers found that during ovulation, women preferred men who were more masculine with stronger builds and facial features, but the women's desires were much weaker the rest of the month. This behavior might be a leftover evolutionary trait that would ensure women would get the best genetic material from a mate when they were most fertile, the authors suggest (Psychological Bulletin, online Feb. 24).

Grad students co-organize journal special section

Sluggish cognitive tempo (SCT), a cluster of symptoms that include drowsiness, daydreaming, mental confusion and lethargy, has primarily been studied as a subtype of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder due to the strong similarity to ADHD inattention. But new research indicates that SCT may be meaningfully distinct from ADHD, a finding that led Stephen Becker and Stephen Marshall, clinical psychology doctoral students at Miami University and Ohio University, respectively, to co-organize a special section on the topic of SCT for the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology (JACP).

The special section appears in the January issue of JACP, and its findings align with other studies that have found SCT is distinct from ADHD and related to academic and social impairments. Becker says he hopes the section will encourage further research in this area. "Although the special section is a big step forward, we still have so much we need to learn about SCT, and so ideally, this set of papers will serve as a springboard for more research examining the underlying nature and longitudinal consequences of SCT," he says.