Oxytocin Enhances Paternal Bonding With Their Children

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

James K. Rilling, PhD Professor, Anthropology, Psychiatry and Behavioral Science Emory University School of Medicine

Dr. James Rilling

James K. Rilling, PhD
Professor, Anthropology, Psychiatry and Behavioral Science
Emory University School of Medicine

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

Response: It has been known for a long time that female mammals experience hormonal changes during pregnancy that prepare them to care for their offspring. More recently, it has been shown that some mammalian males, including humans, can also experience hormonal changes that prepare them to care for their offspring. For example, oxytocin levels can increase in human fathers and studies have shown that oxytocin facilitates paternal physical stimulation, play and emotional synchrony with their children. We examined the effects of intranasal oxytocin on brain function in human fathers. We found that intranasal oxytocin increased activation in brain areas involved with reward and empathy when human fathers viewed pictures of their children, but not unknown children.

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HUD Housing Assistance, But Not Vouchers, Linked To Improvement in Health Measurements

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Andrew Fenelon PhD Assistant Professor, Department of Health Services Administration University of Maryland School of Public Health. College Park, MD 20742

Dr. Andrew Fenelon

Andrew Fenelon PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Health Services Administration
University of Maryland School of Public Health.
College Park, MD 20742

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

Response: Despite the relatively large public investment in housing assistance at the federal level, there have been few nationwide analyses of the impacts of these programs on health and well-being. And as policymakers seek solutions to health disparities that incorporate some of the non-medical determinants of health (such as housing quality), our study can make an important contribution to both health and housing policy.

We use an innovative data linkage program which links individuals in a federal household health survey and administrative housing records from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). We examine the health impacts of three HUD housing programs: public housing, housing choice vouchers, and multifamily housing. We find that public housing and multifamily housing lead to an improvement in self-reported health status, and public housing leads to a reduction in serious psychological distress. We do not find health impacts associated with housing choice vouchers.

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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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Women From Disadvantaged Backgrounds More Likely To Have Heart Disease

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Sanne Peters, PhD

Research Fellow in Epidemiology
The George Institute for Global Health
University of Oxford
Oxford United Kingdom

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

Response: People from disadvantaged backgrounds are, on average, at greater risk of cardiovascular diseases than people with more affluent backgrounds. Some studies have suggested that these socioeconomic inequalities in cardiovascular disease are more consistent and stronger in women than in men. However, the literature is inconsistent.

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Variability in Adult Playfulness Understudied

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

PD Dr. René Proyer Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg Institut für Psychologie Abteilung Differentielle Psychologie und Psychologische Diagnostik

PD Dr. René Proyer

PD Dr. René Proyer
Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
Institut für Psychologie
Abteilung Differentielle Psychologie und Psychologische Diagnostik

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

Response: I got interested in the study of playfulness and adult playfulness in particular while I was working in the Psychology Department at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. There we worked with the so-called Values-in-Action (VIA) classification of strength and virtues (developed by Chris Peterson and Martin Seligman). In this classification humor and playfulness are being used synonymously.

One of my first aims was testing whether this reflects their relation or whether they should be used separately. Overall, findings suggest that there is a relationship, but that the two are not redundant and should be studied separately. From there my interest in the field grew and I started reading more and more.

It soon was clear that playfulness is an understudied individual differences variable and that current conceptualizations focus primarily on the facets of playfulness that are associated with fun and entertainment, while disregarding others.

My research is aimed at narrowing some gaps in the literature and developing a structural model of how adult playfulness could be understood.

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PET Scanning Highlights Link Between Stress and Heart Disease

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr Ahmed Tawakol MD Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical Schoo

Dr Ahmed Tawakol

Dr Ahmed Tawakol MD
Co-Director, Cardiac MR PET CT Program
Massachusetts General Hospital and
Harvard Medical School 

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

Response: While the link between stress and heart disease has long been established, the mechanism mediating that risk hasn’t been clearly understood. Animal studies showed that stress activates bone marrow to produce white blood cells, leading to arterial inflammation.  This study suggests an analogous path exists in humans. Moreover, this study identifies, for the first time in animal models or humans, the region of the brain (the amygdala) that links stress to the risk of heart attack and stroke.

The paper reports on two complementary studies.

The first analyzed imaging and medical records data from almost 300 individuals who had PET/CT brain imaging, primarily for cancer screening, using a radiopharmaceutical called FDG that both measures the activity of areas within the brain and reflects inflammation within arteries.  All participants in that study had no active cancer or cardiovascular disease at the time of imaging and each had information in their medical records on at least three additional clinical visits after imaging.

The second study enrolled 13 individuals with a history of post-traumatic stress disorder, who were evaluated for their current levels of perceived stress and received FDG-PET scanning to measure both amygdala activity and arterial inflammation.

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Caring for Others Linked to Increased Longevity

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Sonja Hilbrand MSc
Department of Psychology
University of Basel
Basel, Switzerland.

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

Response: Grandparenting is a topic of both great practical and theoretical interest. For instance, grandparents in industrialized societies invest substantial amounts of time and money in their grandchildren and there are many studies examining the potential benefits for these grandchildren. Other studies have focused on potentially negative effects on grandparental mortality associated with providing custudial care for grandchildren.
In addition to previous research we wanted to ask whether there are tangible benefits to the donors (grandparents) of the resources. In other words, is caring a one-way street or not.

In our study we examined whether moderate amounts of caregiving were associated with the longevity of older adults. For our analysis we used longitudinal data of over 500 German individuals aged between 70 and 103 years.

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Genetics Magnifies Health Effects of Discrimination

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Connie J. Mulligan, PhD Professor, Department of Anthropology University of Florida Gainesville, FL

Dr. Connie J. Mulligan

Connie J. Mulligan, PhD
Professor, Department of Anthropology
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL

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

Response: Lance Gravlee (UF Dept of Anthropology, UF Genetics Institute) started this research over 10 years ago. As a cultural anthropologist, Lance uses ethnographic (open-ended questions) interviews and discovered that over half of the participants in our study talked about experiences of discrimination that happened to people close to them.

As a geneticist (UF Dept of Anthropology, UF Genetics Institute), I came into the project because I was interested in seeing how genetics and sociocultural stressors, like discrimination, interact. In our project, we look at blood pressure because hypertension is a disease that shows racial disparities and also because it is a complex disease that is caused by both genetic and environmental factors (like discrimination).

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Marital History Linked to Survival After Stroke

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Matthew E. Dupre, Ph.D. Associate Professor Department of Community and Family Medicine & Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI) Duke University

Dr. Mathew Dupre

Matthew E. Dupre, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Community and Family Medicine &
Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI)
Duke University

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

Response: There have been a handful of recent studies showing how divorce and widowhood increase one’s risk of suffering a serious health event such as a heart attack or stroke. Our research is the first to show that an individual’s marital history can have significant consequences for their prognosis after having a stroke.

We found that people who never married and those with a history of marital loss were significantly more likely to die after suffering a stroke than those who were stably married. We also found that adults who experienced more than one divorce or widowhood in their lifetime were about 50% more likely to die after having a stroke than those in a long-term stable marriage. We were also somewhat surprised to find that remarriage did not seem to reduce the risks from past marital losses.

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Which Religious Group Breastfeeds More? Protestants or Catholics?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Jonathan Y. Bernard, PhD

Inserm UMRS 1153 – Centre for research in Epidemiology and Biostatistics Sorbonne Paris Cité (CRESS)
Team ORCHAD: early Origin of the Child Health And Development
Hôpital Paul Brousse

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

Response: Despite the World Health Organization’s recommendations promoting breast feeding, wide variations in breast feeding initiation rates are observed among Western countries: some reach >95%, while others remain <80%. Many individual-level determinants of breast feeding are known, including maternal age, education, ethnicity, smoking and employment status. Less is known regarding cultural determinants, such as religion, which could be underlying and explain rate differences between and within countries.

We aimed at comparing countries’ breast feeding rates with the proportions of Catholics and Protestants. We thus carried out an ecological study by collating publicly available online data for 135 countries. We additionally gathered within-country data for 5 Western nations: France, Ireland, the UK, Canada and the USA.

We found that, in Western countries, the proportion of Catholics was negatively correlated with the rate of breast feeding. This was also observed within countries in France, Ireland, the UK and Canada. In the USA, where breast feeding rates vary hugely between states, race was an important confounder. Interestingly, we also found the correlation in non-Hispanic whites. All our findings hold even when we account for wealth indicators, such as gross domestic product per capita.

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Men and Women Evaluate Faces Differently

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Antoine Coutrot PhD

CoMPLEX
University College London
London, UK

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

Response: The human face is central to our everyday social interactions. Recent studies have shown that while gazing at faces, each one of us has a particular eye-scanning pattern, highly stable across time. Although variables such as culture or personality have been shown to modulate gaze behavior, we still don’t know what shapes these idiosyncrasies.

Moreover, most previous observations rely on analyses of small-sized eye-position datasets, often from the WEIRD (western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic) population. Here we use a very large and diverse dataset (400+ participants from 58 nationalities) and show that among many observer characteristics, gender is the one that best explains the differences in gaze behaviour. When looking at faces, women are more exploratory than men and more biased toward the left side. We even trained a classifier able to infer the gender of observers only based on their gaze.

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Involved Fathers Have Positive Impact on Pre-Adolescent Children

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Charles Opondo, BPharm MSc PhD. Researcher in Statistics and Epidemiology National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit Nuffield Department of Population Health University of Oxford Oxford

Dr. Charles Opondo

Charles Opondo, BPharm MSc PhD.
Researcher in Statistics and Epidemiology
National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit
Nuffield Department of Population Health
University of Oxford
Oxford

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

Response: Our study measured fathers’ involvement in their child’s upbringing in infancy by looking at their emotional response to their child (e.g. feeling confident with the child, making a strong bond with the child), how involved they were in childcare (e.g. changing nappies, playing, night feeding, and also general care tasks around the house such as meal preparation) and their feelings of being a secure in their role as a parent (e.g. feeling included by mother in childcare, not feeling inexperienced with children).

We found that the children of fathers who scored highly in terms of their emotional response and feeling like a secure parent were less likely to have symptoms of behavioural problems when they were 9 or 11 years.

However, fathers being more involved in direct childcare did not seem to affect the child’s risk of having later behavioural problems.

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