VR/AR May Help Physicians Overcome Cognitive Biases To Admitting Errors

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Jason Han, MD Resident, Cardiothoracic Surgery Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Han

Jason Han, MD
Resident, Cardiothoracic Surgery
Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The inspiration for this study comes from my personal experience as a medical student on clinical rotations. Despite having been a victim of a medical error while growing up myself, I found it extraordinarily difficult to admit to even some of my smallest errors to my patients and team. Perplexed by the psychological barriers that impeded error disclosure, I began to discuss this subject with my advisory Dean and mentor, Dr. Neha Vapiwala. We wanted to analyze the topic more robustly through an academic lens and researched cognitive biases that must be overcome in order to facilitate effective disclosure of error, and began to think about potential ways to implement these strategies into the medical school curriculum with the help of the director of the Standardized Patient program at the Perelman School of Medicine, Denise LaMarra.

We ultimately contend that any educational strategy that aims to truly address and improve error disclosure must target the cognitive roots of this paradigm. And at this point in time, simulation-based learning seems to be the most direct way to do so, but also remain hopeful that emerging technologies such as virtual and augmented reality may offer ways for students as well as staff to rehearse difficult patient encounters and improve.

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Fear of Uncertain Future Linked To Brain Region Associated With OCD

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Justin M. Kim, Ph.D

Dartmouth College
Advisor: Paul J. Whalen

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Anxiety (and its co-conspirator ‘worry’) is an active, energy consuming process. You haven’t given up – you are still fighting back, trying to anticipate what might happen tomorrow. The problem of course is that there are an infinite number of ‘what if…’ scenarios you can come up with. For some individuals, the uncertainty of what ‘might happen’ tomorrow, is actually worse than the negative event itself actually happening. These individuals are intolerant of uncertainty.

We were interested in how uncertainty and ambiguity of potential future threat contribute to the generation of anxiety and how they might be represented in our brain. In the psychology literature, how we deal with an uncertain future can be quantified as intolerance of uncertainty (IU). As is the case with any other personality characteristic, we all have varying degrees of IU. For example, individuals high in IU display difficulty accepting the possibility of potential negative events in the future. Importantly, psychiatric disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), whose symptoms are marked with worrying/obsessing, are commonly associated elevated IU. We noticed that while much of the neuroimaging research on IU has been primarily focused on brain function, brain structural correlates of IU have received little attention so far. As such, we believed that it was an important endeavor to assess the relationship between IU and the structural properties of the brain, which can be done through the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques.

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People Prefer Familiar Faces

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Carlota Batres PhD Postdoctoral fellow at Gettysburg College

Dr. Batres

Carlota Batres PhD
Postdoctoral fellow at Gettysburg College

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The background for this study is that previous research has found that individuals from rural areas prefer heavier women than individuals from urban areas. Several explanations have been proposed to explain these preference differences: media exposure, differing optimal weights for different environments, and urbanization. In this study, we investigated familiarity as a possible explanation by examining participants’ face preferences while also examining the facial characteristics of the actual participants.

The main finding of this study is that familiarity appears to be contributing to our facial preferences.

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Virtual Realty Clarifies Location of Empathy in the Brain

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Indrajeet Patil PhD

former PhD student at SISSA, Trieste and
currently a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Human societies are built on mutually beneficial cooperation, which relies on our prosocial and altruistic impulses to help each other out. Psychologists have been trying to understand the psychological basis of altruistic behavior for a while now, but studying costly altruism – a kind of helping behavior in which the altruist pays a heavy price to help others – has been difficult to study in lab settings given the ethical problems associated with creating any paradigm where participants stand to get hurt. Thus, the question is how do you study the motivation behind acts that involve a very high risk of physical injury to the self while helping others? Such situations are common in emergency contexts where people can be faced with the choice of either saving their own life or risking it to save someone else’s life.

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Married People Have Lower Stress Cortisol Levels

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Brian Chin, B.S. PhD Student Doctoral Student Department of Psychology Carnegie Mellon University

Brian Chin

Brian Chin, B.S. PhD Student
Doctoral Student
Department of Psychology
Carnegie Mellon University

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Numerous studies demonstrate that married people tend to be healthier than those who are single, divorced, or widowed. However, less clear are the psychological and biological mechanisms through which this occurs. To this end, recent research has focused on how the unmarried may experience either greater amounts of stress or different types of stressful situations that put them at increased risk for morbidity and mortality.

Models linking stress and disease often implicate the HPA axis as one pathway through which these stressful experiences can affect health. One way to index HPA axis activity is by measuring cortisol, a hormone that plays a regulatory role for many immunological and metabolic processes in the body. The primary aim of our study was to examine whether cortisol could be one biological mechanism through which marital status impacts health.

Over three non-consecutive days, 572 healthy adult participants between 21-55 years old provided multiple saliva samples that were used to measure cortisol. Relative to their never married or previously married counterparts, married people had both lower cortisol outputs and steeper daily declines – both of which have been shown to be associated with better health outcomes.

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We Spend More Time on Facebook Than We Think

Dr-Lazaros-Gonidis.jpg

Dr Dinkar Sharma and Dr. Lazaros Gonidis

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Lazaros Gonidis PhD candidate
Postgraduate Researcher
University of Kent

MedicalResearch.com: In general, why do we tend to underestimate time when we are distracted versus when we are doing something boring? Is the adage that “time flies when you’re having fun” true?

Response:  In order to be accurate at time “keeping” we need to attend to it. Anything that distracts us makes us less accurate, and to be more specific, it makes us underestimate the duration of events. In simple terms when we experience an event that last 10 minutes a distraction could make it feel like 5 minutes. On the other hand when we are bored, let’s say during a non-interesting event, we tend to focus more on time keeping looking forward for the event to finish. In this case we would overestimate the event and 10 minutes could feel like 15 minutes.

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Kids Confide More In Their Pets Than Their Siblings

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Matthew Cassels
PhD candidate, Developmental Psychiatry
University of Cambridge
Cambridge UK

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Around 70% of UK families with young children own a pet. However, the impact of pets on children’s lives is understudied and poorly understood. Researchers in the field of Human-Animal Interaction have been working towards addressing this gap in our understanding by focusing on the role of pets in our lives. Compared to the owners of other pets, dog owners have been found to be more likely to derive a sense of safety, companionship, and security from their pets, and to perceive them as more responsive and affectionate. Factors that contribute to differences in the quality of human-animal relationships are of great interest because the magnitude of the benefits derived from these relationships is related to their quality.

Pets may be especially significant to young people, aiding them in their social and emotional development, and serving as important substitutes for human attachment figures. Children consider their relationships with their pets as among their most important, report strong emotional bonds with their pets, spontaneously list pets when asked to name close friends and providers of social support, report turning to their pets when feeling sad, identify pets more often than humans as providers of comfort, and rely on their pets as playmates and confidants.

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Weight Shaming Can Cause Physical As Well As Mental Harm

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Rebecca L. Pearl PhD
Department of Psychiatry, Center for Weight and Eating Disorders
Perelman School of Medicine
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? 

Response: Weight bias is a pervasive form of prejudice that leads to weight-based discrimination, bullying, and the overall stigmatization of obesity. Some individuals with obesity may internalize weight bias by applying negative weight stereotypes to themselves and “self-stigmatizing.” Exposure to weight bias and stigma increases risk for poor obesity-related health (in part by increasing physiological stress), but little is known about the relationship between weight bias internalization and risk for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

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Our Personality is Shaped By Wrinkles and Folds of Our Brain

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Roberta Riccelli Magna Graecia University Catanzaro, Italy

Dr. Roberta Riccelli

Dr. Roberta Riccelli
Magna Graecia University
Catanzaro, Italy

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: In recent years, there has been a growing interest in personality neuroscience, an emergent field of research exploring how the extraordinary variety of human behaviors arise from different patterns of brain function and structure. According to psychologists, the extraordinary variety of human personality can be broken down into the so-called ‘Big Five’ personality traits, namely neuroticism (how moody a person is), extraversion (how enthusiastic a person is), openness (how open-minded a person is), agreeableness (a measure of altruism), and conscientiousness (a measure of self-control).

However, the relationships between personality profile and brain shape remains still poorly characterized and understood.

The findings of our study highlighted that the personality type characterizing each person is connected to the brain shape of several regions implicated in emotional behaviors and control. We found that neuroticism, a personality trait underlying mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders, was linked to a thicker cortex (the brain’s outer layer of neural tissue) and a smaller area and folding in some brain regions. Conversely, openness, a trait reflecting curiosity and creativity, was associated to thinner cortex and greater area and folding in the brain. The other personality traits were linked to other differences in brain structure, such as agreeableness being correlated with a thinner prefrontal cortex (which is linked to empathy and other social skills). Overall, all the traits characterizing this model of personality are related to some features (e.g. thickness, area and folding) of brain regions implicated in attention, salience detection of stimuli and emotion processing. This could reflect the fact that many personality traits are linked to high-level socio-cognitive skills as well as the ability to modulate ‘core’ affective responses.

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Amygdala Region in Brain Not So Different in Men and Women

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Lise Eliot PhD Associate Professor of Neuroscience Chicago Medical School Rosalind Franklin University North Chicago, IL 60064

Dr. Lise Eliot

Lise Eliot PhD
Associate Professor of Neuroscience
Chicago Medical School
Rosalind Franklin University
North Chicago, IL 60064

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Studies in rats indicate that the amygdala, which is important for many social behaviors including aggression and rough-and-tumble play, is larger in male animals.  Early MRI studies also reported that the human amygdala is larger in men, even after correcting for males’ larger overall brain size.  Because so many MRI studies are now imaging amygdala volume in matched groups of healthy males and females, we realized that there is a lot of published data that could settle whether the human amygdala is indeed proportionally larger in men.  Another rationale for the study is that many psychiatric disorders that involve the amygdala (e.g., depression, anxiety, substance abuse) differ in prevalence between men and women.

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Stress May Aggravate GI Symptoms in Autism Spectrum Disorder

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

David Q. Beversdor MD Center for Translational Neuroscience University Hospital University of Missouri Health System Columbia, MO 65212

Dr. David Beversdor

David Q. Beversdor MD
Center for Translational Neuroscience
University Hospital
University of Missouri Health System
Columbia, MO 65212

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Altered stress reactivity, alterations in cytokines and a high incidence of gastrointestinal disturbances have all been observed in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We wished to examine the interactions between these factors.

What we found was that patients with greater stress reactivity, as indicated by cortisol response in the testing environment, had greater symptomatology involving the lower gastrointestinal tract, which was predominated by constipation.

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Mental and Physical Disorders Linked at Early Age

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr-Gunther-Meinlschmidt.jpg

Prof. Dr. Gunther Meinlschmidt, Psych
University of Basel, Department of Psychology, Division of Clinical Psychology and Epidemiology
Faculty of Medicine
Switzerland

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Physical diseases and mental disorders affect a person’s quality of life. Further, they present a huge challenge for the healthcare system. It has been reported that physical and mental disorders systematically co-occur already early in life. What we wanted to know is whether there are certain temporal patterns between mental disorders and physical diseases during childhood and adolescence. A better understanding of such patterns may help to reveal processes that could be relevant both to the origins of physical diseases and mental disorders and to their treatment.

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