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
Emerging research suggests a longer period of estrogen replacement therapy provides a prolonged cognitive benefit. However, investigators acknowledge that the risk-to-benefit balance of hormone therapy use is complicated and must be individualized.
Research has determined that estrogen has a significant role in overall brain health and cognitive function. This knowledge has fostered various studies on the prevention of cognitive decline as related to reduced estrogen levels during the menopause transition.
The new study suggests a cognitive benefit from a longer reproductive window complemented with hormone therapy. The study, “Lifetime estrogen exposure and cognition in late life: The Cache County Study,” appears online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
Because women comprise two-thirds of the 5.5 million cases of Alzheimer disease in the United States, researchers have long suspected that sex-specific factors such as estrogen may contribute to women’s increased risk for the disease. Moreover, multiple studies have suggested a role for estrogen in promoting memory and learning.
In this newest study involving more than 2,000 postmenopausal women, researchers followed participants over a 12-year period to examine the association between estrogen and cognitive decline.
More specifically, they focused on the duration of a woman’s exposure to estrogen, taking into account such factors as time of menarche to menopause, number of pregnancies, duration of breastfeeding, and use of hormone therapy.
Investigators concluded that a longer duration of estrogen exposure is associated with better cognitive status in older adult women. Furthermore, they documented that these beneficial effects are extended with the use of hormone therapy, especially in the oldest women in the sample.
Women who initiated hormone therapy earlier showed higher cognitive test scores than those who started taking hormones later, providing some support for the critical window hypothesis of hormone therapy.
“Although the assessment of the risk-to-benefit balance of hormone therapy use is complicated and must be individualized, this study provides additional evidence for beneficial cognitive effects of hormone therapy, particularly when initiated early after menopause.
This study also underscores the potential adverse effects of early estrogen deprivation on cognitive health in the setting of premature or early menopause without adequate estrogen replacement,” says Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director.
Source: The North American Menopause Society (NAMS)
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
Two-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds are three times more likely to develop difficulties with language than those from more affluent areas, according to a new Scottish study published in the journal JAMA Network Open.
Researchers say the findings highlight the need for policy makers to address the social factors that can hinder speech, language and communication (SLC) development.
Failing to do so means children might not fully develop the language skills necessary for emotional development, wellbeing and educational and employment opportunities.
“Growing up in a disadvantaged neighbourhood where there is poverty and reduced access to services is closely associated with problems with preschool language development,” said Professor James Boardman of Neonatal Medicine at the University of Edinburgh’s MRC Centre for Reproductive Health.
“These results suggest that policies designed to lessen deprivation could reduce language and communication difficulties among pre-school children.”
For the study, a research team from the University of Edinburgh and NHS Lothian in Scotland looked at more than 26,000 records of children who had received a routine health review between 27 and 30 months between April 2013 and April 2016.
The findings show that two-year-olds living in the most economically deprived neighborhoods were three times more likely to have SLC concerns compared to those brought up in better-off areas.
It is believed that growing up in neighborhoods with low income and unemployment — which is related to problems with education, health, access to services, crime and housing — can increase the risk of setbacks.
The researchers also discovered that being born prematurely had an impact on language issues. The findings show that each week a child spent in the womb from 23 to 36 weeks was associated with an 8.8% reduction in the likelihood of the children having an SLC concern reported at 27 months.
A pregnancy is considered full term between 39 weeks and 40 weeks, 6 days, while preterm birth is defined as delivery before 37 weeks of gestation. Socioeconomic disadvantage has also been associated with a greater risk for preterm birth.
Although the research team looked at birth data from children born in the Lothians, experts say similar results might be expected across the United Kingdom.
Source: University of Edinburgh
New research finds no evidence for the claim that only children are more narcissistic than children with siblings.
German social and personality psychologists Drs. Michael Dufner (University of Leipzig), Mitja D. Back (University of Münster), Franz F. Oehme (University of Leipzig), and Stefan C. Schmukle (University of Leipzig) recently published their findings in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.
The researchers began their study by asking people if they believed people who have no siblings are more narcissistic than people with siblings.
Then, Dufner and colleagues focused on two core aspects of narcissism: people feeling grandiose about themselves more and people being more rivalrous.
Researchers then analyzed data from a large panel study of over 1,800 people, and found the scores of narcissistic traits for only children were not that different from people with siblings. Even controlling for possible socioeconomic factors, these results held true.
“Some of the past research has reported no difference between only children and non-only children in terms of narcissism and some of the past research has reported such a difference,” said Dufner.
Due to the nature of their sampling and research methods, “we can now say with rather high confidence that only children are not substantially more narcissistic than people with siblings.”
Narcissism is considered a socially maladaptive personality trait, so lumping only children as being narcissistic can put them at a disadvantage from their peers, the researchers noted.
“When sociologists, economists, or policy makers discuss the downsides of low fertility rates, they should let go of the idea that growing up without siblings leads to increased narcissism,” Dufner and colleagues wrote.
“There might of course be economic or societal costs associated with low birth rates, but increasing narcissism in the upcoming generation does not seem to be a factor that is relevant to the discussion,” Dufner said.
Source: Society for Personality and Social Psychology
New research finds that performance anticipation at work or school may hinder your ability to remember what happened before your presentation or performance. Investigators also discovered that the presence of an audience may be an important factor in pre-performance memory deficit.
University of Waterloo researchers designed the study to explore what is called the next-in-line effect. “Performance anticipation could weaken memory because people tend to focus on the details of their upcoming presentation instead of paying attention to information that occurs before their performance,” says lead author Noah Forrin.
“People who experience performance anxiety may be particularly likely to experience this phenomenon.”
Forrin and his co-authors experimented with a variety of techniques that enhance memory, including the production effect — we can remember something best if we say it aloud.
One of the study’s co-authors, psychology professor Colin MacLeod, coined the term production effect from previous research. Prior studies have identified that reading aloud involves at least three distinct processes that help to encode memory: articulation, audition and self-reference.
Research by Forrin and MacLeod has demonstrated that reading aloud is better for memory than reading silently, writing, or hearing another person speak aloud. In the new study, however, the findings suggest that the production effect has a downside: When people anticipate reading aloud, they may have worse memory for information they encounter before reading aloud.
The researchers conducted four experiments with 400 undergraduate students and found that students have worse memory for words that they read silently when they anticipate having to read upcoming words aloud (compared to when they anticipate having to read upcoming words silently).
“Our results show that performance anticipation may be detrimental to effective memory encoding strategies,” said Forrin. “Students frequently have upcoming performances — whether for class presentations or the expectation of class participation.”
“We are currently examining whether the anticipation of those future performances reduces students’ learning and memory in the classroom.”
Forrin suggests that a strategy to avoid pre-performance memory deficits relates to scheduling.
“Try to get your performance over with by being the first student in class (or employee in a meeting) to present. After that, you can focus on others’ presentations without anticipating your own.”
The paper, “Wait for it… performance anticipation reduces recognition memory,” appears in the Journal of Memory and Language.
Source: University of Waterloo