In Brief

  • Caregivers who did yoga and meditation had better mental health after eight weeks.Meditation and yoga may enhance coping and quality of life for dementia caregivers, finds a study out of the University of California, Los Angeles. Researchers split 49 caregivers into two groups — a meditation group, who performed a 12-minute yoga practice that included an ancient chanting meditation every day, and a control group, who relaxed quietly with their eyes closed while listening to soothing music for 12 minutes a day. After eight weeks, the researchers found that caregivers in the yoga and meditation group showed a 50 percent improvement on a mental health score, compared with a 19 percent mental health improvement for the relaxation group. (International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, online March 11)
  • Today's young adults appear to be less interested in politics and saving the environment than the youth of previous generations, suggest the results of a study led by San Diego State University psychologists. The researchers analyzed data from two nationwide surveys of more than 9 million young adults over the last 40 years. They found that only 51 percent of Millennials (born between 1982 and 2000) said they made an effort to cut down on electricity use to save energy, compared with 68 percent of baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1961). Likewise, interest in politics among youth decreased, from 50 percent for boomers to 39 percent for Generation Xers (born between 1962 and 1981) and 35 percent for Millennials. (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, online March 5)
  • Personality, gender and emotion regulation may influence how people remember life events, finds a study by scientists at the University of Illinois and the University of Alberta. The researchers used questionnaires and verbal cues to assess personality and to elicit more than 100 autobiographical memories in 71 adults. They found that extroverted men and women tended to remember more positive life events than negative ones. Men who were high in neuroticism recalled more negative memories than men low in neuroticism. Women who were high in neuroticism tended to ruminate on the same negative memories — a habit often associated with depression. (Emotion, January)
  • Americans are more willing to pay to prevent physical illnesses than mental disorders, suggests research conducted at Duke University. In a survey of 710 adults, participants were presented with three medical illnesses or conditions and two mental illnesses: diabetes, below-the-knee amputation, partial blindness, depression and schizophrenia. They were asked to rate each condition for severity and level of burden in relation to quality of life and to indicate how much they would pay out of pocket to avoid the condition. The researchers found that respondents rated the mental illnesses highest on the burdensome scale, but were willing to pay 40 percent less for mental health issues than medical issues, on average. (Psychiatric Services, April)
  • Parents of children with autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder may be more likely to get colds, coughs, headaches and other common ailments, according to research from the United Kingdom's Northumbria University. Researchers compared the cortisol levels of 56 caregivers of children with autism and ADHD with 22 parent controls. They found higher levels of C-reactive protein — a marker for inflammation that is linked to increased risk of coronary heart disease and diabetes — in the parents of children with autism and ADHD. These caregivers also reported more frequent illnesses. (Psychoneuroendocrinology, April)
  • Memory loss in later life may not be permanent, according to a study of fruit flies led by scientists at the Scripps Research Institute. The researchers used functional cellular imaging to monitor changes in young and aged flies' neuron activity before and after learning. They found signs of intermediate-term memory impairment in aged — but not young — flies. After stimulating the neurons, however, intermediate-term memory was restored. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, online April 2)
  • Visual attention problems in early childhood may predict reading difficulties.Dyslexia may begin before a child learns to read, according to research from the University of Padua in Italy. Scientists assessed children's visual spatial attention — their ability to filter relevant versus irrelevant information — from the time before they could read until they were second-grade readers. The researchers found that children who initially had trouble with visual attention were also the ones to later struggle in reading. (Current Biology, published online April 5)
  • Homophobia may be more pronounced in people who are attracted to the same sex and who grew up in conservative, authoritarian households, suggests research by an international team of scientists. In four experiments with college students in the United States and Germany, researchers measured the discrepancies between what people said about their sexual orientation and how they reacted during a split-second timed task to test sexual attraction. Participants also completed questionnaires about their parents. Participants who had supportive and accepting parents were more in touch with their implicit sexual orientation, while participants from more authoritarian homes exhibited the biggest discrepancy between explicit and implicit attraction. (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, April)
  • Mothers who were obese before pregnancy were 60 percent more likely to have a child with autism, a study found.Maternal obesity may be contributing to the rising number of U.S. children diagnosed with autism, suggests research from the University of California, Davis, and Vanderbilt University. Scientists studied more than 1,000 children ages 2 to 5 with and without autism or other developmental problems, as well as their mothers' health history. They found that mothers who were obese before pregnancy were 60 percent more likely to have a child with autism and twice as likely to have a child with another type of cognitive or behavioral delay than mothers who were not obese. That risk was more pronounced among mothers with high blood pressure or diabetes before or during pregnancy. (Pediatrics, online April 9)
  • The brain functions differently in children with math anxiety, according to a study by scientists at Stanford University School of Medicine. A series of fMRI scans conducted with 46 second- and third-grade students as they completed addition and subtraction problems revealed that those who felt panicky about doing math had increased activity in brain regions associated with fear, and decreased activity in parts of the brain involved in problem-solving. (Psychological Science, online March 20)
  • People prefer fewer choices when making personal decisions, but favor many options when making decisions for others, suggests research from New York University. In a series of experiments, the researcher asked 650 study participants to select a wine, paint color, ice cream flavor and school course for themselves or someone else. Those who chose for themselves were more satisfied when given only a few options rather than many choices. When choosing for someone else, however, the participants reported more satisfaction after they chose among many options. (Journal of Personality andSocial Psychology, online March 19)
  • Rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (RBD) doubles one's risk of mild cognitive impairment and Parkinson's disease, suggests research from the Mayo Clinic. Unlike people with normal rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, those with RBD unconsciously act out their dreams during REM sleep by twitching, kicking, screaming and even jumping out of bed. Researchers used a sleep questionnaire to diagnose probable RBD in people who were otherwise neurologically normal. They found that approximately 34 percent of people diagnosed with probable RBD developed mild cognitive impairment or Parkinson's disease within four years of entering the study — a rate 2.2 times greater than those with normal REM sleep. (Annals of Neurology, January)
  • Weight loss doesn't always boost self-esteem in obese teen girls, suggest Purdue University sociologists. They analyzed data from a national study of more than 2,000 U.S. girls who were followed for 10 years starting at ages 9 and 10. They found that girls who lost weight during that time period continued to have negative body perceptions. (Journal of Health andSocial Behavior, March)
  • Living alone increases depression risk, a study finds.The risk of depression for people who live alone is almost 80 percent higher than for people who live with others, suggests research out of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. Researchers followed 3,500 men and women for seven years and compared their living arrangements and psychosocial, demographic and health risk factors — such as smoking, heavy drinking and low physical activity — to their antidepressant use. Those living alone had a higher antidepressant purchase rate than those living with others. (BMC Public Health, March 23)
  • People with bigger brains have a bigger social network, finds a study led by researchers at the University of Liverpool. The researchers used fMRI to measure the size of the prefrontal cortex of 40 participants, who were asked to list everyone they had had social contact with over the previous seven days. They also completed a test on how well they understand what others are thinking. The participants who had more social contact had more neural volume in the prefrontal cortex and fared better on mental tasks (Proceedings of the RoyalSociety B, Feb. 1)

—A. Novotney