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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God Activates Reward Centers In Brain

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Jeffrey S. Anderson, MD, PhD Director the fMRI Neurosurgical Mapping Service Principal Investigator for the Utah Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory University of Utah

Dr. Jeffrey S. Anderson

Jeffrey S. Anderson, MD, PhD
Director the fMRI Neurosurgical Mapping Service
Principal Investigator for the Utah Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory
University of Utah

MedicalResearch.com: What is your study about?

Response: Billions of people find meaning in life and make choices based on religious and spiritual experiences. These experiences range from epiphanies that change the lives of celebrated mystics to subtle feelings of peace and joy in the lives of neighbors, friends, or family members that are interpreted as spiritual, divine, or transcendent.

Astonishingly, with all we understand about the brain, we still know very little about how the brain participates in these experiences. We set out to answer what brain networks are involved in representing spiritual feelings in one group of people, devout Mormons.
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Harsh Environment Shifts Men’s Preferences To Heavier Females

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Carlota Batres, Ph.D. Perception Lab School of Psychology and Neuroscience University of St Andrews UK

Dr. Carlota Batres,

Carlota Batres, Ph.D.
Perception Lab
School of Psychology and Neuroscience
University of St Andrews
UK

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

Response: The background for this study is that previous research had found that people in different environments prefer different faces, which suggests that preferences change according to the environment. However, because previous research had never tracked the same participants across environmental changes, such a link could not be confirmed. Therefore, we sought to determine if, and to what extent, face preferences were malleable by repeatedly testing participants whose environment was not changing as well participants undergoing intensive training at an army camp.

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Thinking About Death Motivates Athletes To Do Better

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Colin Zestcott PhD Graduate Student University of Arizona

Colin Zestcott

Colin Zestcott PhD Graduate Student
University of Arizona

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

Response: We are very interested in terror management theory, which was developed by Jeff Greenberg (one of the co-Authors of the paper) and his colleagues in the late 80’s. The theory is a very broad motivational theory that may help explain why people do the things they do in many different contexts. The theory explains why people need self esteem and why they care so much about their cultural worldviews.

Athletes use many different motivational techniques to improve their performance in sport. Our idea was to apply an experimental social psychology theory–Terror Management Theory (TMT)–as one novel way to improve performance in basketball. According to Terror Management Theory (TMT; Greenberg, Pyszczynski & Solomon, 1986) self-esteem and cultural worldviews help human beings avoid worrying about their inevitable mortality, by convincing them that they are more than just material creatures that are destined to die and decay; that they have meaning, purpose and value, and that they may somehow continue to exist after they die, either literally, as in religious beliefs in the afterlife, or symbolically, through their achievements, relationship and identification with groups. According to TMT self-esteem is defined as the feeling that one is a valuable member of a meaningful universe.

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Is Denial Helpful or Harmful in Coping With Heart Attack?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Xiaoyan Fang and
Sophia Hoschar

Institute of Epidemiology II
Mental Health Research Unit
Helmholtz Zentrum München
German Research Center for Environmental Health
Neuherberg

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

Response: Time to treatment is a crucial determinant of survival in patients who have suffered an acute myocardial infarction. During an acute myocardial infarction, patients often use denial as a coping mechanism which may provide positive mood regulating effects but may also prolong prehospital delay time (PHD). Indeed, some small exploratory studies, mainly performed over 10 years ago, provided a preliminary evidence that denial contributes to decreased adherence to effective cardiac treatment by disavowing of the diagnosis and by minimizing the perceived symptom burden and symptom severity. Thus, the object of Munich Examination of Delay in Patients Experiencing Acute Myocardial Infarction (MEDEA) study is to find the effect of denial on patients’ prehospital delay.

Our study contributes important new findings to the role of denial in the face of an AMI in an extended data set of STEMI patients.

  • First, the psychological coping mechanism of denial in the face of an AMI turned out to have more beneficial than adverse effects: denial contributed to less suffering from heart-related symptoms and negative potentially traumatizing affectivity without leading the patients to maladaptive behavior (e.g. waiting for the symptoms to resolve).
  • In addition, from an overall perspective, denial only minimally increased the delay time, whereas in the time window of 3-24hrs, denial led to a clinical significant longer delay. Apparently denial did not function in the most favorable time window presumably because of an extreme painful symptom pattern which overcame the effect of denial on prehospital delay. In this case, denial might be an intervention point for those who are without severe symptoms.

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