• Older adults who exercise at least once a week, remain socially active, have at least a high school education and are non-smokers are more likely to maintain their cognitive skills through their 70s and 80s, finds research published in the June 9 issue of Neurology (Vol. 72, No. 23). Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, tested the cognitive skills of 2,500 people age 70 to 79 over eight years to determine the factors that help people maintain cognitive function as they age. The researchers also found that those with at least a ninth-grade literacy level are nearly five times more likely to stay sharp than those with lower literacy levels.
• Sleeping on it really does help, but only if that sleep includes dreams, concludes a study in the June 23 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Vol. 106, No. 25). Researchers led by Sara C. Mednick, PhD, of the University of California, San Diego, gave participants a creative problem-solving test in the morning and again in the afternoon and found that those who took a nap that included rapid-eye movement, or REM, between testing periods improved their creativity performance by nearly 40 percent. Those who didn't nap or who napped without REM showed no improvement on the test.
• Social baboons make better moms, finds a study appearing online in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Pennsylvania analyzed 17 years of records on more than 66 adult female baboons in the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana and found that offspring from the most social mothers were one-and-a-half times more likely to survive to adulthood than baboons reared by less social mothers. These findings, the researchers say, support a growing body of research with humans indicating that strong social networks are important to health and help reduce stress.
• Napping may have a significant influence on young children's daytime functioning, according to research presented in June at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies. In the study, led by Penn State University postdoctoral fellow Brian Crosby, PhD, researchers found that children age 4 and 5 who did not take daytime naps were more likely to exhibit higher levels of hyperactivity, anxiety and depression, as reported by their parents, than children who continued to nap at this age.
• Latino teens who embrace their native culture perform better academically and adjust more easily socially, finds a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study, in July's The Journal of Primary Prevention (Vol. 30, No. 3–4). Researchers interviewed 281 Latino youth and parents about their lifestyles and mental health. They found that when they repeated the survey one year later, for every one-point increase in a teen's involvement in the Latino culture, there was a 13 percent rise in self-esteem and a 12 percent decrease in hopelessness, social problems and aggressive behavior. The study also showed that for every increase in a parent's involvement in U.S. culture, there was a 15 percent to 18 percent decrease in adolescent social problems, aggression and anxiety.
• New research brings more bad news for families forced to uproot due to the troubled economy: Frequent household moves raise teens' suicide risk. In a study of more than 4,000 Danish children age 11 to 17 who sought medical help for suicide attempts, researchers found that adolescents whose families had moved three to five times were twice as likely to attempt suicide compared with those who had never moved. Teens who had moved more than 10 times were four times as likely to attempt suicide. The research appears in the June ArchivesofGeneral Psychiatry (Vol. 66, No. 6).
• Those who aren't confident in their beliefs are less likely to expose themselves to contrary views, suggests a meta-analysis of 91 studies involving nearly 8,000 participants, in the July Psychological Bulletin (Vol. 153, No. 4). The study, led by University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign psychology professor Dolores Albarracín, PhD, also shows that people are about twice as likely to seek information that supports their own point of view as to consider an opposing idea, and that people are more resistant to new points of view on topics such as religion, politics and ethics.
• One in seven teens thinks he or she is going to die before age 35, and this belief leads many to engage in risky behaviors, suggests research in the July Pediatrics (Vol. 124, No. 1). In the study, led by University of Minnesota Medical School researcher Iris Borowsky, MD, PhD, investigators analyzed data from a nationally representative sample of more than 20,000 youth in grades seven through 12. They found that adolescents who thought they had a good chance of dying earlier were more likely to engage in illicit drug use, suicide attempts, fighting and unsafe sexual activity than those who didn't feel that way. "This study suggests that in some cases, teens take risks because they ... feel hopeless and figure that not much is at stake," Borowsky says.
• A family-based prevention program helps teens override a gene linked to risky behavior, according to a University of Georgia study in the May/June Child Development (Vol. 80, No. 3). Over the course of 29 months, investigators compared the progress of 11-year-olds enrolled in a family-centered prevention program, called Strong African American Families, with a comparison group. They found that program participants with the short allele form of 5-HTTLPR—a fairly common genetic variation known to be associated with impulsivity, low self-control, binge drinking and substance use—were no more likely than their counterparts without the gene to have engaged in drinking, marijuana smoking and sexual activity. They also found that adolescents with the gene in the comparison group were twice as likely to have engaged in these risky behaviors as those in the prevention group.