New research on rats seems to find a connection between yo-yo dieting and compulsive eating.
According to researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), a chronic cyclic pattern of overeating followed by undereating reduces the brain’s ability to feel reward and may drive compulsive eating.
The finding suggests that future research into the treatment of compulsive eating behavior should focus on rebalancing the mesolimbic dopamine system, the part of the brain responsible for feeling reward or pleasure, researchers say.
“We are just now beginning to understand the addictive-like properties of food and how repeated overconsumption of high sugar — similar to taking drugs — may affect our brains and cause compulsive behaviors,” said corresponding author Pietro Cottone, Ph.D., an associate professor of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics at BUSM and co-director of the Laboratory of Addictive Disorders.
To better understand compulsive and uncontrollable eating, Cottone and his research team performed a series of experiments on two groups of rats. One, the cycled group, received a high-sugar, chocolate-flavored diet for two days each week and a standard control diet the remaining days of the week, while the control group received the control diet all of the time.
The group that cycled between the palatable food and the less palatable food spontaneously developed compulsive, binge eating on the sweet food and refused to eat regular food, the researchers discovered.
Both groups were then injected with a psychostimulant amphetamine, a drug that releases dopamine and produces reward, and their behavior in a battery of behavioral tests was then observed.
While the control group predictably became very hyperactive after receiving amphetamine, the cycled group did not.
Furthermore, in a test of the conditioning properties of amphetamine, the control group was attracted to environments where they previously received amphetamine, whereas the cycled group were not.
Finally, when measuring the effects of amphetamine while directly stimulating the brain reward circuit, the control group was responsive to amphetamine, while the cycled group was not, according to the findings.
After investigating the biochemical and molecular properties of the mesolimbic dopamine system of both groups, the researchers determined that the cycled group had less dopamine overall, released less dopamine in response to amphetamine, and had dysfunctional dopamine transporters — proteins that carry dopamine back into brain cells — due to deficits in the mesolimbic dopamine system.
“We found that the cycled group display similar behavioral and neurobiological changes observed in drug addiction: specifically, a crash in the brain reward system,” Cottone said. “This study adds to our understanding of the neurobiology of compulsive eating behavior.
“Compulsive eating may derive from the reduced ability to feel reward. These findings also provide support to the theory that compulsive eating has similarities to drug addiction.”
“Our data suggest that a chronic cyclic pattern of overeating will reduce the brain’s ability to feel reward — feeling satiated. This results in a vicious circle, where diminished reward sensitivity may in turn be driving further compulsive eating,” said lead author Catherine (Cassie) Moore, Ph.D., a former graduate student in the Laboratory of Addictive Disorders at BUSM.
The study was published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.
Source: Boston University School of Medicine
New research suggests hope is a trait that can predict resilience and recovery from anxiety disorders.
In a new study, clinical psychologist Dr. Matthew Gallager and colleagues examined the role of hope in predicting recovery in a clinical trial of adults in cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) for common anxiety disorders.
Historically, the concept of hope has long stirred opinion. In the 16th century, German theologian Martin Luther celebrated its power, claiming “Everything that is done in this world is done by hope.” Two centuries later, Benjamin Franklin warned that “He that lives upon hope will die fasting.”
In the study, Gallagher — University of Houston associate professor of clinical psychology — assessed the role of hope in predicting recovery among a clinical trial of 223 adults. In the trial, adults were receiving cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) for one of four common anxiety disorders: social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Gallagher discovered that psychotherapy can result in clear increases in hope and that changes in hope are associated with changes in anxiety symptoms. His findings appear in the journal Behavior Therapy.
“In reviewing recovery during CBT among the diverse clinical presentations, hope was a common element and a strong predictor of recovery,” said Gallagher. He also reports that moderate-to-large increases in hope and changes in hope were consistent across the five separate CBT treatment protocols.
In terms of psychotherapy, hope represents the capacity of patients to identify strategies or pathways to achieve goals and the motivation to effectively pursue those pathways.
Significantly, the results of this study indicate that hope gradually increases during the course of CBT, and increases in hope were greater for those in active treatment than for those in the waitlist comparison.
The magnitude of these changes in hope were consistent across different CBT protocols and across the four anxiety disorders examined, which underscores the broad relevance of instilling hope as an important factor in promoting recovery during psychotherapy.
“Our results can lead to a better understanding of how people are recovering and it’s something therapists can monitor. If a therapist is working with a client who isn’t making progress, or is stuck in some way, hope might be an important mechanism to guide the patient forward toward recovery,” said Gallagher.
Hope is closely related to other positive psychology constructs, such as self-efficacy and optimism, that have also been shown to have clear relevance to promoting resilience to and recovery from emotional disorders, said Gallagher.
Gallagher’s research is part of a larger project examining the efficacy of CBT for anxiety disorders led by Dr. David H. Barlow, founder and director emeritus of the Boston University Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders.
Source: University of Houston
Going for that pint of ice cream after a bad breakup may not do as much damage as you think. A new study shows that despite the emotional turmoil, people on average do not report gaining weight after a breakup.
The study, which included researchers from Penn State, investigated the German concept of “kummerspeck” — excess weight gain due to emotional eating — which literally translates to “grief bacon.”
According to the researchers, although hoarding food after a breakup may have made sense for humans thousands of years ago, modern humans may have grown out of the habit.
“Food was much scarcer in the ancestral environment, so if your partner abandoned you, it could have made gathering food much harder,” said Dr. Marissa Harrison, associate professor of psychology at Penn State Harrisburg.
“It may have made sense if our ancestors hoarded food after a breakup. But our research showed that while it’s possible people may drown their sorrows in ice cream for a day or two, modern humans do not tend to gain weight after a breakup.”
The findings are published in the Journal of the Evolutionary Studies Consortium.
The researchers say it is well documented that people sometimes use food as a way to cope with negative feelings and that emotional eating can lead to unhealthy food choices. Because breakups can be stressful and emotional, it could potentially trigger emotional eating.
In addition, ancient relationship dynamics may have made packing on the pounds after a breakup evolutionarily advantageous.
“Modern women of course have jobs and access to resources now, but back then, it was likely that women were smaller and needed more protection and help with resources,” Harrison said.
“If their partner left or abandoned them, they would be in trouble. And the same could have gone for men. With food not as plentiful in the ancestral world, it may have made sense for people to gorge to pack on the pounds.”
Harrison also noted that the existence of the word “kummerspeck” itself suggested that the phenomenon existed.
The research team conducted two studies to test the theory that people may be more likely to gain weight after a relationship breakup. In the first experiment, they recruited 581 people to complete an online survey about whether they had recently gone through a breakup and whether they gained or lost weight within a year of that breakup.
Most of the participants — 62.7 percent — reported no weight change. The researchers were surprised by this result and decided to perform an additional study.
For the second experiment, the researchers recruited 261 new participants to take a different, more extensive survey than the one used in the first study. The new survey asked whether participants had ever experienced the dissolution of a long-term relationship, and whether they gained or lost weight as a result.
The survey also asked about participants’ attitudes toward their ex-partner, how committed the relationship was, who initiated the breakup, whether the participants tended to eat emotionally, and how much participants enjoy food in general.
While all participants reported experiencing a break up at some point in their lives, the majority of participants — 65.13 percent — reported no change in weight after relationship dissolution.
“We were surprised that in both studies, which included large community samples, we found no evidence of kummerspeck,” Harrison said. “The only thing we found was in the second study, women who already had a proclivity for emotional eating did gain weight after a relationship breakup. But it wasn’t common.”
Harrison added that the results may have clinical implications.
“It could be helpful information for clinicians or counselors with patients who tend to eat emotionally,” Harrison said. “If your client is going through a breakup and already engages in emotional eating, this may be a time where they need some extra support.”
Victoria Warner, a Penn State Harrisburg graduate student, was the lead author of this study. Samantha Horn from Penn State Harrisburg and Susan Hughes from Albright College also participated in this work.
Source: Penn State
New research suggests a period of rest following a traumatic event can help reduce the subsequent development of involuntary “memory intrusions,” a frequent symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder. Memory intrusions can be both visual or non-visual and are often referred to as flashbacks.
The study, published in Scientific Reports, discovered memory disturbances in PTSD may be mitigated by a process that occurs in the brain that can be facilitated by rest and sleep. Specifically, investigators discovered increased consolidation — storage and contextualization of memories in the brain — helps to alleviate memory intrusions. Experts believe this finding could shed new light on treatment and prevention.
Lead author Dr. Lone Hørlyck, from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, said, “Over a lifetime, many people experience traumatic events, but most people do not develop persistent trauma symptoms.
“Identifying which mechanisms might contribute to memory intrusions in PTSD is important, as these disturbances comprise an important maintaining factor in the disorder.”
For the study, researchers presented 85 participants with emotionally negative videos, followed by either a period of wakeful rest or a simple control task, where participants were required to pay attention to numbers on a screen.
The videos comprised highly emotional content, such as badly injured people or serious accidents.
Researchers found that participants who had a period of rest following the viewing of negative videos reported fewer memory intrusions related to the videos over the following week.
In contrast, there was no difference between rest and the simple control task on a follow-up memory test assessing how much participants remembered when they wanted to.
Rest and certain phases of sleep are known to increase processing in the hippocampus, a key region of the brain that helps put memory in context.
According to the investigators, the results suggest that a strengthening of this contextual memory system is beneficial in preventing memory intrusions following trauma.
Senior author Professor Neil Burgess, of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, said, “The coherence of memories is often compromised when people are exposed to psychological trauma, resulting in emotional memories popping up involuntarily and out of context.
“However, the binding of an event memory with its context may be partly restored with rest, facilitating deliberate control of the memory.
“The results show that specific brain systems could be targeted to reduce development of PTSD and may explain why treatments that focus on re-exposure and integrating the trauma with other information are beneficial.”
Hørlyck added, “Our findings contribute to a better understanding of the mechanisms that are at play when some people develop memory disturbances following trauma while others do not.”
Source: University College London/EurekAlert
A new study from Spain suggests hostile and competitive people are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.
“There are still many questions to answer but what we discovered is very significant,” points out Dr. Rosario Ruiz Olivares, head researcher at the University of Cordoba (Spain). Nevertheless, Olivares said that what could be called an addictive personality “does not exist.”
However, the study does confirm that there is a very strong correlation between a personality characterized by hostility and competitiveness and consumption of illegal substances, such as cocaine, cannabis and hallucinogens.
Investigators believe that people who are patient, less hostile, and not competitive have a much lower likelihood of being drug users. “This kind of personality is a protective factor for drug consumption and is especially meaningful in the case of alcohol and tobacco,” Olivares said.
In the study, socio-demographic and personality questionnaires were completed by 3,816 young people in the province of Cordoba between the ages of 18 and 29. “In the future, we would like to broaden the sample to a national level and study behavior patterns according to the person’s gender,” states Rosario Ruiz.
These results represent an important step in the field of preventing drug consumption among young people, since it could focus specifically on people who demonstrate hostile and competitive traits.
Furthermore, it will not only help in prevention, but may also help clinicians given that individuals who have these characteristics can find it more difficult to overcome their addiction. Early detection of substance abuse can lead to specific psychological therapy designed to work on the personality traits that influence drug abuse.
Source: University of Cordoba
A recent study sheds new light on why people who frequently watch partisan news outlets are more likely to believe falsehoods about political opponents.
And contrary to popular opinion, it isn’t because these individuals live in media “bubbles” where they aren’t exposed to the truth. Rather, it is tied to the way in which partisan media outlets promote hostility against their “rivals.”
For the study, researchers from Ohio State University analyzed data from the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections and discovered that Americans who consumed more partisan media had stronger negative feelings than others toward political opponents.
This dislike was linked to greater belief in misperceptions about those from the “other side.”
“Partisan news outlets promote a feeling of animosity toward the other side and that animosity can help explain inaccurate beliefs,” said Dr. R. Kelly Garrett, lead author of the study and professor of communication at Ohio State.
“As people grow increasingly hostile towards those with whom they disagree, our study found they are more likely to believe false information about them.”
The results suggest that the link between partisan media use, hostility and belief in falsehoods was more pronounced among Republicans than among Democrats. Garrett said this finding was “provocative,” but that this data alone isn’t enough to prove that association.
But the findings, published online in the Journal of Communication, do offer a grim warning.
“If this (partisan) hostility translates into a willingness to believe anything that members of your party tell you, regardless of empirical evidence or claims made by those not belonging to the ingroup, then the U.S. political situation is dire,” the study authors wrote.
Two surveys were designed and carried out by Garrett and his team.
During the 2012 presidential election campaign, 652 Americans were interviewed online three times: near the beginning and middle of the campaign and right after the election.
During each wave of the study, the participants were asked about how often they used partisan news outlets to get information about the presidential candidates, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney. They also rated how favorably they felt about each candidate on a scale of 0 to 10.
In addition, the respondents rated on a scale of 1 (definitely false) to 5 (definitely true) whether they believed four statements about Obama and four statements about Romney that were false but had been reported in partisan media outlets.
One of the statements about Obama was that he is a socialist and one about Romney was that he believes Mormon Church leaders (Romney is Mormon) should play a defining role in national affairs.
The findings show that the more any individual Republican in the study consumed conservative media outlets, the more that he or she disliked Obama and the more that he or she believed untruths about Obama.
There was no similar finding among Democrats who used liberal media, but Garrett warns against making too much of that finding. For example, it is possible that the differences found between Republicans and Democrats could be connected to the falsehoods chosen for this study.
The study of the 2016 election involved 625 participants who were also interviewed three times during the course of the election season. But in this case, the team focused on just one issue in which partisans on both sides had closely matched misperceptions: Russian interference in the election.
Investigations at that time showed evidence of Russian hacking into email accounts of the Democratic Party, but there was no conclusive evidence one way or the other about any coordination with the Trump campaign.
The interviewers asked respondents if the investigation had confirmed coordination between Russian intelligence and the Trump campaign (a liberal falsehood) or confirmed no coordination (a conservative falsehood). The participants could also choose that there was no conclusive evidence at the time, which was the true statement.
The findings were similar to the first study. Those who consumed more conservative media showed greater dislike than others of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and were more likely to believe the misperception that investigators had cleared Trump of coordination.
Again, there was no similar finding among those who consumed more news from liberal media outlets.
“The fact that we found the same difference between liberal media use and conservative media use in 2016 as we did in 2012 is provocative,” Garrett said. “It merits more careful scrutiny. We think these results provide a useful step forward. But it would be a mistake to treat this issue as settled.”
Garrett said the study helps fill the void left behind after research showed that most people aren’t viewing only news that supports their side.
“We used to think that if we could just expose people to all the information out there, the truth would emerge. The problem is that we now have a lot of evidence that people don’t live in bubbles — they may consume more media from one side, but they aren’t avoiding everything else,” he said.
“Our results suggest an alternative reason why partisan media viewers believe misperceptions.”
The findings also suggest that partisan media can help promote belief in falsehoods about political opponents without even mentioning the misperceptions themselves.
“Encouraging hostility toward political opponents has the same effect,” Garrett said.
Source: Ohio State University