Archive for March, 2019

Caffeine consumption by pregnant women can increase the risk of miscarriage, a new study reports.

And, it doesn’t matter if the caffeine comes from coffee, tea, soda or hot chocolate. What does matter is the amount — the study found that when women drink more than 200 milligrams of caffeine daily, the risk of miscarriage increases twofold.

“What we found was that if women have heavy caffeine intake — greater than 200 milligrams a day — they have double the risk of miscarriage than women that don’t have any caffeine,” said one of the study’s authors, Dr. De-Kun Li, a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist in the division of research at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif.

Results of the study were published online in the January issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Caffeine, the most frequently consumed drug in the world, crosses the placental barrier and reaches the developing fetus, according to the study. While previous studies have found an association between caffeine intake and miscarriage, it hadn’t been clear whether the problem was due to the caffeine or another substance in coffee, or if it had something to do with non-coffee drinkers’ lifestyles — perhaps people who didn’t drink coffee ate more fruits and vegetables, for example.

For the new study, the researchers looked at 1,063 women from the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program in San Francisco; they were interviewed at an average of 10 weeks’ gestation. During the study period, 16 percent of the women — 172 — had miscarriages.

The researchers found that 25 percent of the women who miscarried reported consuming no caffeine during their pregnancy. Another 60 percent said they had up to 200 milligrams of caffeine daily, and 15 percent regularly consumed more than 200 milligrams of caffeine each day.

In addition to asking about caffeine intake, the researchers also assessed the other known risk factors for miscarriage, such as smoking, a history of previous miscarriage, alcohol use and more. The researchers also compensated for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.

“If you have a low risk of miscarriage, the effect of caffeine tends to show more,” said Li.

Li said that even among women who drank less than 200 milligrams of caffeine a day, the study found a 40 percent increased risk of miscarriage, but this finding didn’t reach the level of statistical significance.

“Women shouldn’t drink more than two regular cups of coffee a day, and hopefully they stop drinking totally for at least the first three months. It’s not a permanent stop. If they really have to drink, limit the amount to one or two cups — a regular cup is about seven and half ounces,” Li said.

But, not every doctor is convinced that there’s a direct cause-and-effect relationship between caffeine and miscarriage.

“The problem with this study is that when people miscarry, a large percentage of those miscarriages are due to genetic abnormalities, and the researchers didn’t say whether these were normal or abnormal fetuses,” said Dr. Laura Corio, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

“Women are always worrying and wondering, ‘What did I do?’ Before we say a woman drank too much caffeine and that’s why she had a miscarriage, let’s see if it was an abnormal or normal pregnancy, said Corio.

“I think about 60 to 80 percent of miscarriages are due to genetic abnormalities,” she added.

That said, however, Corio does advise her pregnant patients to limit caffeine consumption. “Women have a responsibility to the fetus — no cigarettes, no alcohol and just one cup of coffee a day,” she said, noting that many store-bought cups of coffee contain far too much caffeine, so a woman has to be aware of how much caffeine is in her favorite coffee.

“Have less than 200 milligrams a day,” no matter what the source — coffee, tea, cola, chocolate, etcetera, Corio advised. She said caffeine has also been linked to low birth weights and smaller head circumferences.

Li also advised limiting caffeine to less than 200 milligrams a day, especially in the early months of pregnancy and in the preconception period.

More information

To learn more about caffeine and pregnancy, visit the American Pregnancy Association.

SOURCES: De-Kun Li, M.D., Ph.D., reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist, division of research, Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, Calif.; Laura Corio, M.D., obstetrician/gynecologist, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York City; January 2008, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, online

Source: https://abcnews.go.com/Health/Healthday/story?id=4510127&page=1

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Researchers suggest that people with an advanced meditation practice might operate at a different level of awareness — and it shows in their brainwaves.

As science begins to dig into the long-term impacts meditation has on the brain, researchers are turning to the minds “Olympic-level” meditators for answers—people who have done up to 62,000 hours of meditation in their lifetime.

Psychologist and author Daniel Goleman says the brainwaves of long-term meditators may look a lot different than the rest of ours.

Inside the mind of long-term meditators

In this video from BigThink, Goleman describes how neuroscientist Richard Davidson, his co-author on the book Altered Traits, measured the brainwaves of advanced meditators. Davidson found their brainwaves showed never-before-seen levels of gamma, one of the strongest types of brain waves,  theorized to appear when the different regions of the brain harmonize.

“We get [gamma] when we bite into an apple or imagine biting into an apple,” explains Goleman, “and for a brief period, a split second, inputs from taste, sound, smell, vision, all of that comes together in that imaged bite into the apple.”

The typical person will have a gamma wave very briefly, for example when we’ve solved a problem we’ve been grappling with, and for a second all of our sensory inputs come together in harmony. The brainwaves of long-term meditators, however, show gamma all the time as a lasting trait, no matter what they are doing. “It’s their everyday state of mind,” says Goleman. “Science has never seen this before.”

“The people that we’ve talked to in this Olympic level group say it’s very spacious and you’re wide open, you’re prepared for whatever may come, we just don’t know. But we do know it’s quite remarkable.”

Interestingly, when these long-term meditators are studied while they are meditating on compassion, their level of gamma jumps 700 to 800 percent in a few seconds.

This “awakeness” is special state of consciousness that you only see in the highest-level meditators.

“The people that we’ve talked to in this Olympic-level group say it’s very spacious and you’re wide open, you’re prepared for whatever may come—we just don’t know,” says Goleman, “but we do know it’s quite remarkable.”

Source: https://www.mindful.org/the-remarkable-brains-of-high-level-meditators/

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“Never bring shoes into your closet.”

What? It seemed counterintuitive. That’s where shoes go. But when Batista explained her reasoning for exiling shoes from their rightful shelves, it started to make more sense.

Why you should be taking your shoes off outside your home.

We all know someone (or maybe you are that someone) who operates a strictly shoeless home. Shoes carry the outdoors in and definitely contribute to dirt and grime buildup in our spaces. Instead of taking your shoes off when you walk in and then storing them in your closet, Batista recommends banning them from the inside of your home altogether.

For reasoning, she points to studies like a 2016 one out of the University of Arizona, which found the average shoe sole contained 421,000 different kinds of bacteria—90 percent of which was transferred to clean floors right away.

While there’s already a lot of bacteria in your home (and that’s not a bad thing, by the way), some of the grime on shoes can be particularly nasty. Batista references Coliforms, an indicator of disease often found in feces, as well as E. coli, as examples of things we could be unwittingly tracking in.

While science has yet to prove that the germs on our shoes can directly make us sick (and the research that has been done on the topic has been on specific categories of people, like dog owners and athletes), Batista lives in the “better safe than sorry” camp and says we’re better off annexing dirty soles—especially from small spaces with limited airflow like closets. She also says that leaving your shoes in the closet may lead to more dust mites—teeny-tiny critters that feed off dirty fabric and furniture in nearly every home and may trigger allergies.

Moral of the story: Designate an area to drop shoes outside of your home or apartment if possible, or invest in a shoe rack to leave in your entryway. And if you do want to store shoes during their off-seasons, do your closet a favor and be sure to give them a good clean first. While you’re at it, here’s a quick refresh for the rest of your closet:

  1. Start by vacuuming the floors.
  2. Then, remove all of your clothing (this is a good opportunity for a quick Kondo, too).
  3. Wipe down the shelves with a microfiber cloth that’s been lightly sprayed with water.
  4. Refold clothes and put them back in a way that makes them easy to see and access. If that means investing in a few clear storage boxes, so be it!

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/should-you-keep-shoes-out-of-your-home-this-cleaning-expert-says-yes?otm_medium=onespot&otm_source=inbox&otm_campaign=Daily+Mailer&otm_content=daily_20190329&otm_click_id=349e2d00e54fb42cbd6d654815a85cdb&os_ehash=4366f4a34c67ce527584ae17c656bb4bd17ce861

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Anxiety, whether clinically diagnosable or not, can be absolutely debilitating, especially if left untreated. Take it from me: I had a panic attack on my own wedding day (not recommended), and now, as a psychotherapist, I help counsel people through anxiety every day.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults age 18 and older, or about 18 percent of the population. Even more astounding, though, is that anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 37 percent of those suffering get the treatment they need. Part of the problem: People often don’t know that what they’re dealing with is actually anxiety, or even if they do have an inkling, they might feel shame about asking for help and try to “power through it” on their own. But I’m here to tell you, ignoring your anxiety never works.

In my experience, I’ve learned that anxiety can actually be a gift, alerting you that something is out of balance in your life and giving you the nudge you need to pause and find that balance again. Sometimes this can be achieved through simple at-home practices, and other times enlisting the help of a therapist is key in managing anxiety.

So, how do you know when it’s time to see a therapist for your anxiety? First, it’s important to know if what you’re dealing with is actually anxiety or something else; then you need to assess the extent to which anxiety is currently affecting your life.

The difference between fear, stress, and anxiety.

Like so many words, “anxiety” gets misused all the time. I will often have clients tell me, “I’m so anxious about [insert situation here],” when what they really mean is that they’re stressed or scared. To help you pinpoint exactly what you’re dealing with, let’s define and differentiate these similar yet powerfully different words.

Fear: Fear is a basic emotional response to a known threat. It’s a present-oriented emotion (meaning, you’re afraid of something that’s happening right now) caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous. The fear response is hard-wired into our brains to help us survive, and it typically causes us to fight, flee, or freeze in response. A great example of fear is walking down a trail and seeing a bear in front of you. You’re either going to fight the bear, run away from the bear, or freeze and not be able to move. Fear differs from anxiety in that it relates to a real and in-the-moment (as opposed to an imagined) danger.

Stress: Stress is a psychological perception of pressure that typically feels too big to cope with in a healthy way. Psychological stress usually comes from things that happen externally like marital or relationship problems, the death of a loved one, abuse, health problems, or financial struggles. While “acute stress” has an ending, “chronic stress” could continue on and on and on. Left unchecked, chronic stress can lead to a variety of physical and psychological symptoms, including anxiety.

Anxiety: Unlike fear, anxiety is a future-oriented emotion, meaning, rather than being focused on something scary in the moment, it’s apprehension about something in the future—an unknown. Anxietycan be accompanied by intrusive thoughts that run through your mind at a rapid pace, creating feelings of tension, a racing heart, sweating, shaking, and dizziness.

Healthy vs. unhealthy anxiety: When is it time to see a therapist?

If you’re still reading, chances are you’re dealing with some level of anxiety. But rest assured, not all anxiety is unhealthy. To paraphrase renowned psychologist Albert Ellis: Anxiety is basically a set of uncomfortable feelings and action tendencies that make you aware that unpleasant things are happening, or are likely to happen, and warn you that you better do something about them. All of which is to say, healthy anxiety can put you in control of your own feelings, help you deal with potentially dangerous situations effectively, and act as a “check engine” light for your entire being.

But unhealthy anxiety is much different and makes it almost impossible to actually cope with dangerous or unpleasant situations. In the broadest sense: Whenever anxiety starts to interfere with your daily life, that means it’s probably time for some help. To help illustrate what that means, here are five signs your anxiety is doing more harm than good and that it’s time to seek out the help of a therapist:

1. You feel like you’re not in control of your thoughts.

Tell me if this sounds familiar: When your boss calls an unexpected meeting, you immediately think you’re getting fired and spend the next hour mentally freaking out and playing through every possible negative scenario, or at night, you can’t sleep because nonstop thoughts are racing through your head (How will I finish tomorrow’s impossible to-do list, and what will people think of me if I don’t? My boss didn’t sign off on that super-important project; what now? Crap, I haven’t made a doctor’s appointment in two years; what if I have cancer?). It’s miserable—and no, life doesn’t have to be this way.

2. You sometimes lose control of your physical body and behavior.

Shaking, tapping, losing feeling in your extremities, feeling paralyzed, or even sending 10 texts in a row instead of one or calling someone incessantly until they pick up the phone—when anxiety gets bad, we often start doing things that would have once been considered totally out of character.

3. You aren’t doing the things you want to do.

Have you ever decided to stay home and not go to that happy hourwith co-workers or concert because of some irrational worry that you were only invited out of pity or that someone will think you’re weird? Or maybe you really wanted to go to your friend’s wedding, but it would have required you to get on an airplane, and the thought of that brought up a slew of what-ifs that stopped you from going. Your anxiety should never hold you back from doing the things you want—and if it does, it’s time to get support.

4. You’re having regular panic attacks.

Panic attacks are an intense physical manifestation of your anxiety during which your sympathetic nervous system becomes activated and triggers a huge release of adrenaline. If you’re unaware of what’s happening, it can feel like you’re having a heart attack or even dying, and symptoms often include a feeling or terror, trembling, a choking sensation, difficulty catching your breath, numbness and tingling, sweating, and sometimes even vomiting. As if that weren’t enough, if you’re experiencing panic attacks, the mere thought of having another panic attack can be enough to bring on more anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle that often requires a mental health professional to help you break.

5. You can’t go to work, take care of your kids, or complete other basic tasks.

When you can’t do the things that you need to do to function as a human being in today’s world, there’s a problem. This isn’t to say you can’t have bad days or take a mental health day now and then to hit the reset button, but when you frequently can’t complete basic daily tasks that are essential to your well-being or the well-being of your family, it’s time to get support.

How to find a therapist and alleviate your anxiety.

If you’re dealing with unhealthy anxiety, your first step should be finding a therapist so you can get their professional opinion and possibly an official diagnosis. Ultimately, there are two big reasons to get a diagnosis for an anxiety disorder. First, it can help define the method of treatment; second, a diagnosis is needed for insurance to approve any sessions with any therapist. To find a therapist in your area, GoodTherapy is a great resource that allows you to filter by ZIP code, specialties, type of insurance accepted, and whether or not the therapist accepts sliding-scale payments.

If you’re dealing with stress or lower levels of anxiety, you should still take steps to alleviate it—but you may be able to get it under control with simple coping strategies and natural remedies. Here are a few suggestions that I’ve found to be helpful:

  • Call someone you trust: Your friends and family love you and want to be there for you if they can be. The key is to call someone who can hold space for you and who isn’t going to try to problem-solve—unless you’re looking for that. Be upfront about what you need so they can give it to you.
  • Try aromatherapy: When it comes to coping with stress or low levels of anxiety, diffusing some high-quality essential oils can be super-helpful. Research suggests that some of the best essential oils for stress and anxiety are lavender, rose, vetiver, ylang-ylang, bergamot, chamomile, and frankincense.
  • Take a few minutes to just breathe: While it’s so easy to write off meditation as something we “don’t have time for,” all you really need is two minutes to make a difference. Check out apps like Insight Timer, which allows you to search for a meditation based on how much time you have, or simply set a timer on your phone for a few minutes and take some deep breaths.
  • Consider a few supplements: While you should always check with your doctor before taking a new supplement, I’ve found some to be pretty fabulous for helping manage stress and low levels of anxiety, including ashwagandha5-HTPGABAmagnesium, and vitamin B complex.

Above all, I want you to know that anxiety does not have to rule your life. If your anxiety is stopping you from living the life you want to live (which is known as “impairment” in therapist-speak), it’s time to get support. Instead of fighting with your anxiety, accept it and use the tools you have at your fingertips. Soon enough, you’ll feel comfortable in your body and mind again.

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/how-to-know-when-its-time-to-see-therapist-for-your-anxiety?otm_medium=onespot&otm_source=inbox&otm_campaign=Daily+Mailer&otm_content=daily_20190328&otm_click_id=0e12081d7aa067b9561d52a1fbcada55&os_ehash=4366f4a34c67ce527584ae17c656bb4bd17ce861

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The part of your brain responsible for ASMR catalogs music, and appears to be a stronghold against Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Some music inspires you to move your feet, some inspires you to get out there and change the world. In any case, and to move hurriedly on to the point of this article, it’s fair to say that music moves people in special ways.

If you’re especially into a piece of music, your brain does something called Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR), which feels to you like a tingling in your brain or scalp. It’s nature’s own little “buzz”, a natural reward, that is described by some as a “head orgasm”. Some even think that it explains why people go to church, for example, “feeling the Lord move through you”, but that’s another article for another time.

Turns out that ASMR is pretty special. According to a recently published study in The Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease (catchy name!), the part of your brain responsible for ASMR doesn’t get lost to Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s tends to put people into layers of confusion, and the study confirms that music can sometimes actually lift people out of the Alzheimer’s haze and bring them back to (at least a semblance of) normality… if only for a short while. ASMR is powerful stuff!

This phenomenon has been observed several times but rarely studied properly. One of the most famous examples of this is the story of Henry, who comes out of dementia while listening to songs from his youth:

Jeff Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in Radiology at the Univerity of Utah Health and contributing author on the study, says  “In our society, the diagnoses of dementia are snowballing and are taxing resources to the max. No one says playing music will be a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but it might make the symptoms more manageable, decrease the cost of care and improve a patient’s quality of life.”

Source: https://bigthink.com/news/ever-get-the-tingles-from-listening-to-good-music-that-part-of-your-brain-will-never-get-lost-to-alzheimers

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Our children and grandchildren are shaped by the genes they inherit from us, but new research is revealing that experiences of hardship or violence can leave their mark too.

In 1864, nearing the end of the US Civil War, conditions in the Confederate prisoner of war camps were at their worst. There was such overcrowding in some camps that the prisoners, Union Army soldiers from the north, each had the square footage of a grave. Prisoner death rates soared.

For those who survived, the harrowing experiences marked many of them for life. They returned to society with impaired health, worse job prospects and shorter life expectancy. But the impact of these hardships did not stop with those who experienced it. It also had an effect on the prisoners’ children and grandchildren, which appeared to be passed down the male line of families.

While their sons and grandsons had not suffered the hardships of the PoW camps – and if anything were well provided for through their childhoods – they suffered higher rates of mortality than the wider population. It appeared the PoWs had passed on some element of their trauma to their offspring.

But unlike most inherited conditions, this was not caused by mutations to the genetic code itself. Instead, the researchers were investigating a much more obscure type of inheritance: how events in someone’s lifetime can change the way their DNA is expressed, and how that change can be passed on to the next generation.

This is the process of epigenetics, where the readability, or expression, of genes is modified without changing the DNA code itself. Tiny chemical tags are added to or removed from our DNA in response to changes in the environment in which we are living. These tags turn genes on or off, offering a way of adapting to changing conditions without inflicting a more permanent shift in our genomes.

Grandfather, father and son on a beach with their family (Credit: Alamy/Getty Images/BBC)

The effects of trauma may echo down several generations, from a grandfather to their son and then to their grandson (Credit: Alamy/Getty Images/BBC)

But if these epigenetic changes acquired during life can indeed also be passed on to later generations, the implications would be huge. Your experiences during your lifetime – particularly traumatic ones – would have a very real impact on your family for generations to come. There are a growing number of studies that support the idea that the effects of trauma can reverberate down the generations through epigenetics.

For the PoWs in the Confederate camps, these epigenetic changes were a result of the extreme overcrowding, poor sanitation and malnutrition. The men had to survive on small rations of corn, and many died from diarrhoea and scurvy.

“There is this period of intense starvation,” says study author Dora Costa, an economist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “The men were reduced to walking skeletons.”

The sons of PoWs had an 11% higher mortality rate than the sons of non-PoW veterans

Costa and her colleagues studied the health records of nearly 4,600 children whose fathers had been PoWs, comparing them to just over 15,300 children of veterans of the war who had not been captured.

The sons of PoWs had an 11% higher mortality rate than the sons of non-PoW veterans. Other factors such as the father’s socioeconomic status and the son’s job and marital status couldn’t account for the higher mortality rate, the researchers found.

This excess mortality was mainly due to higher rates of cerebral haemorrhage. The sons of PoW veterans were also slightly more likely to die from cancer. But the daughters of former PoWs appeared to be immune to these effects.

This unusual sex-linked pattern was one of the reasons that made Costa suspect that these health differences were caused by epigenetic changes. But first Costa and her team had to rule out that it was a genetic effect.

Family sitting by a pool (Credit: Alamy/Getty Images/BBC)

For some reason, the trauma seem to be most strongly passed from fathers to their sons (Credit: Alamy/Getty Images/BBC)

“What could have happened is that a genetic trait which enabled the father to survive the camp, a tendency toward obesity for example, was then bad during normal times,” says Costa. “However, if you look within families, there are only effects among sons born after but not before the war.”

If it were a genetic trait then children born before and after the war would be equally likely to show the reduced life expectancy. With a genetic cause ruled out, the most plausible explanation left was an epigenetic effect.

“The hypothesis is that there’s an epigenetic effect on the Y chromosome,” says Costa. This effect is consistent with studies in remote Swedish villages, where shortages in food supply had a generational effect down the male line, but not the female line.

But what if this increased risk of death was due to a legacy of the father’s trauma that had nothing to do with DNA? What if traumatised fathers were more likely to abuse their children, leading to long-term health consequences, and sons bore the brunt of it more than daughters?

Children born to men before they became PoWs didn’t have a spike in mortality, but the sons of the same men after their PoW camp experience did

Once again, comparing the health of children within families helped rule this out. Children born to men before they became PoWs didn’t have a spike in mortality. But the sons of the same men after their PoW camp experience did.

“It’s a case of ruling out the other possible options,” says Costa. “A lot of it is proof by elimination and what is the most consistent explanation.”

Many of the times when trauma is thought to have echoed down the generations via epigenetics in humans are linked to the darkest moments in history. Wars, famines and genocidesare all thought to have left an epigenetic mark on the descendants of those who suffered them.

A mother, father and son on a beach (Credit: Alamy/Getty Images/BBC)

An epigenetic signal in the children of people who have survived traumatic experiences raises hopes of reversing the effect it has on their DNA (Credit: Alamy/Getty Images/BBC)

Some studies have proved more controversial than others. A 2015 study found that the children of the survivors of the Holocaust had epigenetic changes to a gene that was linked to their levels of cortisol, a hormone involved in the stress response.

“The idea of a signal, an epigenetic finding that is in offspring of trauma survivors can mean a lot of things,” says Rachel Yehuda, director of the Traumatic Stress Studies Division at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and an author of the study. “It’s exciting that it’s there.”

The study was small, assessing just 32 Holocaust survivors and a total of 22 of their children, with a small control group. Researchers have criticised the conclusions of the study. Without looking at several generations and searching more widely in the genome, we can’t be sure it is really epigenetic inheritance.

Yehuda acknowledges that the paper was blown out of proportion in some reports, and larger studies assessing several generations would be needed draw firm conclusions.

“It was one single small study, a cross-section of adults many, many years after parental trauma. The fact we got a hint was big news,” says Yehuda. “Now the question is, how do you put meat on the bones? How do you really understand the mechanism of what is happening?”

When pups smelled the scent of cherry blossom, they became more jumpy and nervous than pups whose fathers hadn’t been conditioned to fear it

Controlled experiments in mice have allowed researchers to hone in on this question. A 2013 study found that there was an intergenerational effect of trauma associated with scent. The researchers blew acetophenone – which has the scent of cherry blossom – through the cages of adult male mice, zapping their foot with an electric current at the same time. Over several repetitions, the mice associated the smell of cherry blossom with pain.

A father and his son (Credit: Alamy/Getty Images/BBC)

The idea that the effect of a traumatic experience might be passed from a parent to their offspring is still regarded as controversial by many (Credit: Alamy/Getty Images/BBC)

Shortly afterwards, these males bred with female mice. When their pups smelled the scent of cherry blossom, they became more jumpy and nervous than pups whose fathers hadn’t been conditioned to fear it. To rule out that the pups were somehow learning about the smell from their parents, they were raised by unrelated mice who had never smelt cherry blossom.

The grandpups of the traumatised males also showed heightened sensitivity to the scent. Neither of the generations showed a greater sensitivity to smells other than cherry blossom, indicating that the inheritance was specific to that scent.

This sensitivity to cherry blossom scent was linked back to epigenetic modifications in their sperm DNA. Chemical markers on their DNA were found on a gene encoding a smell receptor, expressed in the olfactory bulb between the nose and the brain, which is involved in sensing the cherry blossom scent. When the team dissected the pups’ brains they also found there was a greater number of the neurons that detect the cherry blossom scent, compared with control mice.

It is not that fear is being passed down the generations – it is that fear in one generation leads to sensitivity in the next

The second and third generation appeared to have not a fear of the scent itself, but a heightened sensitivity to it. The finding brings to light an often-missed subtlety of epigenetic inheritance – that the next generation doesn’t always show exactly the same trait that their parents developed. It is not that fear is being passed down the generations – it is that fear of a scent in one generation leads to sensitivity to the same scent in the next.

“So this is not ‘apples for apples’,” says Brian Dias, author of the study and a researcher at Emory University and the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in the US. Even the term “inheritance” should be qualified here, he adds. “The word inheritance suggests it has to be a faithful representation of a trait that’s passed down.”

The consequences of passing down the effects of trauma are huge, even if they are subtly altered between generations. It would change the way we view how our lives in the context of our parents’ experience, influencing our physiology and even our mental health.

Family by a pool with flowers in background (Credit: Alamy/Getty Images/BBC)

The offspring of mice condititioned to fear the smell of flowers would also be sensitive to the same scent (Credit: Alamy/Getty Images/BBC)

And knowing that the consequences of our own actions and experiences now could affect the lives of our children – even long before they might be conceived – could put a very different spin on how we choose to live.

Despite picking up these echoes of trauma down the generations, there is a big stumbling block with research into epigenetic inheritance: no one is sure how it happens. Some scientists think that it is actually a very rare event.

One of the reasons that it may not be widespread is that the vast majority of one type of epigenetic mark on the DNA – the addition of a clump of chemicals known as methylation – is wiped clean at the very start of life and the process of adding these chemical groups to the DNA begins almost from scratch.

Despite these echoes of trauma down the generations, there is a big stumbling block with research into epigenetic inheritance: no one is sure how it happens

“As soon as the sperm enters the egg in a mammal, there’s a rapid loss of DNA methylation from the paternal set of chromosomes,” says Anne Ferguson-Smith, a researcher studying epigenetics at the University of Cambridge.  “That’s the reason why transgenerational epigenetic inheritance is such a surprise.

“It’s very hard to imagine how you could have epigenetic inheritance when there’s a process of removal of all the epigenetic marks and putting on new ones in the next generation.”

There are, however, parts of the genome that are not wiped clean. A process called genomic imprinting protects the methylation at specific points of the genome. But these sites are not the ones where the epigenetic changes relevant to trauma are found.

A recent study by Ferguson-Smith’s group suggests epigenetic inheritance is probably very rare in mice.

A man and boy holding hands (Credit: Alamy/Getty Images/BBC)

Epigenetics is thought to be the link between nature and nurture, where a person’s experiences alters how their DNA is read by their cells (Credit: Alamy/Getty Images/BBC)

But other researchers are convinced that they have found the hallmarks of epigenetic inheritance for several traits – in humans as well as animals. What’s more, they think they’ve found a mechanism for how it works. This time it could be molecules similar to DNA – known as RNA – that are altering how genes function.

A recent paper has revealed strong evidence that RNA may play a role in how the effects of trauma can be inherited. Researchers examined how trauma early in life could be passed on by taking mouse pups away from their mothers right after birth.

“Our model is quite unique,” says Isabelle Mansuy of the University of Zürich and ETH Zürich, who led the research. “It’s to mimic dislocated families, or the abuse, neglect and emotional damage that you sometimes see in people.”

The symptoms these pups showed as they grew up also mimicked the symptoms seen in children who have experienced early trauma. The mice showed signs of increased risk-taking and higher calorie intake, both seen in child trauma survivors. When the males grew up, they had pups that showed similar traits – overeating, risk taking and higher levels of antisocial behaviour.

The pups showed the typical altered behavioural patterns of those whose parents experienced trauma

The researchers extracted RNA molecules from the sperm of male mice who had been traumatised and injected these molecules into early the embryos of mice whose parents had not experienced this early-life trauma. The resulting pups, however, showed the typical altered behavioural patterns of a pup whose parents experienced trauma.

They also found that different lengths of RNA molecules were linked to different behavioural patterns: longer RNAs corresponded to greater food intake, changed the body’s response to insulin and greater risk-taking. Smaller RNA molecules were linked to showing signs of despair.

“It’s the first time we’ve seen this link in a causal way,” says Mansuy.

A family running on a beach (Credit: Alamy/Getty Images/BBC)

It is possible that emotional damage experienced in your own childhood could be passed on to your children (Credit: Alamy/Getty Images/BBC)

How these RNA molecules alter the behaviour of multiple generations is not yet known. Mansuy is now running experiments in humans to see if similar processes are at work in humans. Initial experiments by other researchers have shown that this does seem to be the case in men.

This research – as well as many of the mice studies – focus on sperm and epigenetic inheritance down the male line. This isn’t because scientists think it only happens in males. It’s just a lot harder to study eggs than it is to study sperm.

But efforts to decipher epigenetic inheritance down the female line is the next step.

“We had to start from somewhere,” says Mansuy. “But we are looking to have a model of trauma that shows how inheritance occurs via both females and males.”

The science of epigenetic inheritance of the effects of trauma is young, which means it is still generating heated debate

There are other known kinds of epigenetic mechanisms that are relatively little studied. One of them is called histone modification, where the proteins that act as a scaffold for DNA are chemically tagged. Now research is starting to suggest that histones could also be involved in epigenetic inheritance through the generations in mammals.

“I suspect the answer is that all of these mechanisms could interact to give us the phenomenon that is intergenerational inheritance of acquired traits,” says Dias.

The science of epigenetic inheritance of the effects of trauma is young, which means it is still generating heated debate. For Yehuda, who did pioneering work on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the 1990s, this comes with a sense of déjà vu.

Father and son walking along a track (Credit: Alamy/Getty Images/BBC)

Exactly how trauma is passed down through the generations is still unclear as the mechanisms that act on the DNA are not fully understood (Credit: Alamy/Getty Images/BBC)

“Where we are with epigenetics today feels like how it was when we first started doing research into PTSD,” she says.  “It was a controversial diagnosis. Not everyone believed there could be long term effect of trauma.”

Nearly 30 years later, PTSD is a medically accepted condition that explains why the legacy of trauma can span decades in a person’s lifetime.

But if trauma is shown to be passed down the generations in humans in the same way as it appears to be in mice, we shouldn’t feel a sense of inevitability about this inheritance, says Dias.

Using his cherry blossom experiments in mice, he tested what would happen if males that feared the scent were later desensitised to the smell. The mice were repeatedly exposed to the scent without receiving a foot shock.

“The mouse hasn’t forgotten, but a new association is being formed now this odour is no longer paired with the foot shock,” says Dias.

When he looked at their sperm, they had lost their characteristic “fearful” epigenetic signature after the desensitisation process. The pups of these mice also no longer showed the heightened sensitivity to the scent. So, it if a mouse “unlearns” the association of a scent and pain, then the next generation may escape the effects.

It also suggests that if humans inherit trauma in similar ways, the effect on our DNA could be undone using techniques like cognitive behavioural therapy.

“There’s a malleability to the system,” says Dias. “The die is not cast. For the most part, we are not messed up as a human race, even though trauma abounds in our environment.”

At least in some cases, Dias says, healing the effects of trauma in our lifetimes can put a stop to it echoing further down the generations.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20190326-what-is-epigenetics

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From Vincent Van Gogh on through Kanye West, the figure of the broody, tortured artist looms large in the popular imagination. But research suggests that the key to creativity has little to do with angst. In researching my book The Happiness TrackI found that the biggest breakthrough ideas often come from relaxation.

History shows that many famous inventors have come up with novel ideas while letting their minds wander. In 1881, for example, famed inventor Nikola Tesla had fallen seriously ill on a trip to Budapest. There, a college friend, Anthony Szigeti, took him on walks to help him recover. As they were watching the sunset on one of these walks, Tesla suddenly had an insight about rotating magnetic fields—which would in turn lead to the development of modern day’s alternating current electrical mechanism.

Similarly, Friedrich August Kekulé, one of the most renowned organic chemists in 19th-century Europe, discovered the ring-shaped structure of the organic chemical compound benzene while daydreaming about the famous circular symbol of a snake eating its own tail. And Albert Einstein famously turned to music—Mozart in particular—when he was grappling with complex problems and needed inspiration.

Simply put, creativity happens when your mind is unfocused, daydreaming or idle. (This is why we have so many “aha” moments in the shower.) Research by University of California, Santa Barbara psychology professor Jonathan Schooler and his colleagues, for example, finds that people are more creative after they have been daydreaming or letting their minds wander. And in an article in the Annual Review of Psychology, Schooler and psychology professor Jonathan Smallwood found that when people learn a challenging task, they do better if they work first on an easy task that promotes mind-wandering, and then go back to the more difficult one. The idea is to balance linear thinking—which requires intense focus—with creative thinking, which is borne out of idleness. Switching between the two modes seems to be the optimal way to do good, inventive work.

How modern life impedes creativity

The problem is that many of us can go entire days without putting our brains on idle. At work, we’re intensely analyzing problems, organizing data, writing—all activities that require focus. During downtime, we immerse ourselves in our phones while standing in line at the store or lose ourselves in Netflix after hours.

We need to find ways to give our brains a break. If our minds are constantly processing information, we never get a chance to let our thoughts roam and our imagination drift. Luckily, there are several research-backed changes you can make to boost your creativity.

First, emulate creative geniuses like Charles Dickens and J. R .R.Tolkien and make a long walk—without your phone—a part of your daily routine. A 2014 study (pdf), published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, found that people who went on daily walks scored higher on a test that measures creative thinking than people who did not, and that people who went on outdoor walks came up with more novel, imaginative analogies than people who walked on treadmills.

Second, get out of your comfort zone. Instead of intensely focusing exclusively on your field, take up a new skill or class. Travel to new places, and socialize with people outside your industry. Researchshows that diversifying your experiences will broaden your thinking and help you come up with innovative solutions.

Third, make more time for fun and games. Stuart Brown points out in his book Play that humans are the only mammals who no longer play in adulthood. That’s a shame, because research by psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, author of Positivity, shows that play, by boosting positive mood, makes us feel both happier and more inventive. So spend some time playing fetch with your dog, join the kids for a game of Twister, or join an improv group or soccer club.

Lastly, alternate between doing focused work and activities that are less intellectually demanding. Adam Grant, Wharton School management professor and author of Give & Takesuggests that organizing your day this way can help give your brain some much-needed downtime—the better to make room for your next big idea.

Source: https://qz.com/978018/happiness-research-shows-the-biggest-obstacle-to-creativity-is-being-too-busy/

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It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four “inked” human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.

Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

“The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body,” they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It’s a white tattoo ink pigment that’s mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study’s authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin.”

Source: https://bigthink.com/brandon-weber/scientists-studied-tattooed-corpses-to-see-if-the-ink-stays-put

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It’s a lot faster than current treatments, according to clinical trials.

The FDA is expected to approve the new treatment this month.

After her son was born in May 2017, Renee Raffalli suffered a massive hemorrhage, requiring six blood transfusions and a stay in the ICU. “The trauma of his birth didn’t allow me to function as a new mom in that moment,” she recalls. “I was only focused on surviving.”

For weeks, she’d cry suddenly and constantly.

“I didn’t feel like I could adequately take care of my son. I felt my husband could do a much better job than I could, therefore I started to believe I couldn’t do anything on my own,” she recalls. “Then came the overwhelming guilt. Guilt that I wasn’t focusing on him enough, that I was relying on my husband too much, that I wondered if our life would have been better if we never decided to have a kid.”

At her six-week checkup, her OB suggested she see a therapist, but she didn’t click with the one she met. She tried meeting with another therapist when her son was 10 months old, but again felt like she wasn’t getting to the root of her issues. It wasn’t until her son was 14 months old that she finally met with a psychiatrist who prescribed Lexapro.

“I feel more like myself than I have in a very long time,” she says.

Now, a new treatment for postpartum depression is on the horizon—one that promises to provide relief to struggling moms like Renee in a much shorter time frame.

The drug, called brexanolone, is expected to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration in March 2019 and will be marketed under the name Zulresso. According to Marketwatch, it would be the first drug therapy approved to specifically treat postpartum depression.

As in Renee’s case, postpartum depression is typically managed using psychotherapy and antidepressants, but those treatments can take weeks to take effect.

But results from two randomized trials of brexanolone published in The Lancet in September 2018 showed the drug could significantly improve postpartum depression symptoms within days.

“This is unlike anything we currently have available,” Samantha Meltzer-Brody, the lead author of The Lancet study and director of the perinatal psychiatry program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told Marketwatch. “We now have an opportunity to treat women quickly, within days.”

The downside: The drug is administered by intravenous infusion over 60 hours—requiring two days of hospitalization for those who receive it. And it will likely be priced at $20,000 to $35,000 per treatment, according to Michael Cloonan, chief business officer for the drug’s maker, Sage Therapeutics Inc. However, the company is currently working with insurers to iron out coverage specifics and is looking at a launch date in June 2019, he told Marketwatch.

Given the fact that postpartum depression affects an estimated 1 in 9 women, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the new treatment could be an actual lifesaver, since severe cases of PPD can lead to suicide.

And while the pricing and intravenous delivery of brexanolone likely places it out of reach of many women, drugmakers are working on other fast-acting treatments for depression. Sage, for example, is developing an oral drug similar to brexanolone.

It’s just another way American moms are finally getting the attention they need post-delivery. Recently, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) changed its guidelines and now recommends all women have contact with a maternal care provider within the first three weeks postpartum, followed up with ongoing care as needed and a comprehensive postpartum visit no later than 12 weeks after birth.

Renee believes more in-depth care in the weeks following her life-threatening delivery would have benefited her. “This was the most crucial time that my emotions became out of control,” she says. “By my six-week checkup, I felt as if this was my life now, my new normal, and nothing could be done.”

Hopefully, earlier and constant care, combined with new, effective medications, will help more moms like Renee get the help they need much sooner.

Source: https://www.workingmother.com/there-will-soon-be-drug-specifically-to-treat-postpartum-depression?src=SOC&dom=fb&fbclid=IwAR0ZHAjkS6R8_ceqb5vLLBdK_sj6THh_y8O-rqEdZkWW7MhZVK09SEJsH-8#page-2

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If you’ve ever been in a long-distance relationship or know someone who has, you’ll know it isn’t easy. That being said, there are unexpected life circumstances that separate people from their partners, or they meet someone when they least expect it while in a different place. Whatever the situation, we’ve consulted a relationship expert to find out what you can do to make a long-distance relationship work.

Why are long-distance relationships so complicated?

This may seem like an obvious answer, but many factors make this type of relationship hard. One of the biggest things is, of course the lack of physical intimacy, which is often an essential part of a relationship, says certified sex therapist and couples counselor Jessa Zimmerman. Beyond physical intimacy, not being in the same space as another person can make it easier to become busy with other parts of your life and more difficult to make staying involved in one another’s lives a priority, Zimmerman tells mbg.

What can people do to “make it work”?

“Making it work” looks different for every couple because of the vast amount of variety in partners’ needs and expectations. Some couples may find that both partners “have a higher tolerance for independence and doing their own thing and are very happy on independent tracks and connecting less often,” says Zimmerman, while some partners prefer more involvement or require that in their relationships. Neither is right or wrong. Whatever camp a couple finds themselves in, there are a few tips and tricks for smoother sailing:

1. Establish expectations.

How much communication do you personally need each day? What amount of communication satisfies your partner? As Zimmerman points out, people have different amounts of tolerance for separation and contact—so make sure you’re both on the same page about these expectations from the start. If you haven’t done so already, talk directly with your partner to create a routine that feels good for both of you.

2. Prioritize connecting with your partner.

Recognize that “talking” is different from “connecting.” While phones have made it easier to stay in touch with our loved ones each day, Zimmerman says it often requires more than just a good-night call to stay connected on a deeper level to our partners.

“Remember to really share and consult with each other, console each other, and keep the conversation going on in-depth,” she says. This could sound daunting when you don’t have your partner right next to you, but consider bringing up more meaningful conversations—goals, dreams, obstacles, and challenges. These types of conversations give your partner a chance to be there for you and share what comes up for them. If this feels too out of the blue or uncomfortable, you may try something like TableTopics for couples; these topics are often thought-provoking and could help you learn something new about each other or steer conversations into fresh territory.

3. Put time on your calendar.

It may sound odd to put time on the calendar to connect with your partner, but it’s especially crucial in a long-distance relationship because you don’t have the morning and evening touch-base time that many couples living together have.

The first thing you’ll want to schedule if you have the means is visits to see your partner; this way you can look forward to the next time you’ll be seeing them and plan how to make the most of that in-person quality time.

Between visits, “have a daily anchor that’s your time to connect (over the phone), so whether you’re sitting together over a cup of coffee, watching a TV show together, or checking in around lunch or before bed,” you’ll still be building a more meaningful connection over time, says Zimmerman. If you’re feeling bored of these options, she suggests thinking about your time together as a weekly date, where you and your partner watch a whole movie together, have a more extended conversation, or engage in phone sex or flirtation.

4. Develop trust.

Whether you and your partner were separated geographically after dating for some time in the same place or you began long-distance from the get-go, establishing trust and honesty is crucial. When you’re spending virtual time together each day, you’ll want to have the peace of mind that your partner is remaining loyal to you as you are to them. Having honest conversations about the expectations for your relationships and how things are progressing is an essential step in building this foundation, Zimmerman says.

It comes down to investing time in your relationship.

Just as a couple living together would do, you’ll want to put designated energy toward scheduling your time with your partner, planning how you’ll spend that time, and dedicating some conversations to the topic of trust. A long-distance relationship isn’t easy for many, but making time to connect with each other, both in person from time to time and over the phone, is really the most important step in making it work.

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/how-to-make-a-long-distance-relationship-work?fbclid=IwAR2eGxS-ZKugiq18-BzCyP2S6Q0mxrAeDw9STmyvQOWH4Q8rk1IiYbm_IYs

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