Tag Archives: anxiety

BrainHealth research demonstrates positive impact of online SMART training

The Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Tactics (SMART™) brain health training protocol has been shown to improve symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress when delivered in person. New research from Center for BrainHealth® at The University of Texas at Dallas demonstrates the effectiveness of online delivery of SMART.

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SMART training features strategies to strengthen the brain’s frontal networks and achieve significant, measurable brain changes and improvements. This brain health training program promotes improvements in both trained and untrained areas of cognitive functioning, including strategic attention, innovation, working memory and real-life executive function behaviors. In addition to improving cognitive function, SMART has also demonstrated unexpected benefits in mental health markers.

The research, “Effects of Online Brain Training on Self-Reported Mental Health Symptoms for Generally Healthy Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” was published in Brain and Behavior.

This study investigated the effects of a 12-week, self-paced, online SMART training on mental health on 145 participants between the ages of 18-78 years. Participants included 106 females and 39 males. Participants self-reported mental health symptoms on the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS-21), a tool to measure the negative emotional states of depression, anxiety and tension/stress, both pre- and post- training. Although the participants consisted of healthy adults, some reported symptoms of psychological distress at baseline pre-training on the DASS-21, particularly in the younger age groups.

Improvements in depression, anxiety and stress symptoms were observed following online SMART, evidenced by a significant decrease in self-reported symptoms on the DASS-21. While SMART training generally yielded mental health benefits across age, gender and education levels, additional exploration is warranted to explore how age and education may affect expression of symptom subtypes.

The lasting impact of this training was revealed in data from 44 participants who completed a follow-up DASS-21 six months after the initial training and showed that improvement in self-reported mental health symptoms was maintained or continued to expand post-training. These findings suggest that SMART may be an effective tool to help those experiencing pre-clinical mental health symptoms, particularly for depression and stress.

Lead author Sarah Laane, MS, CCC-SLP, a research clinician and doctoral student at Center for BrainHealth, stated these findings indicate that participants who completed online SMART experienced similar mental health benefits to those previously demonstrated after in-person SMART programs and demonstrates support for the use of online SMART as a potential low-cost, high-impact tool to support mental health.

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Eating in response to anxiety or sadness is linked with heart damage

It’s not just what we eat, but why we eat that’s important for heart health, according to research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the ESC.1 The study found that emotional eating was associated with cardiovascular problems, and that stress contributed to this relationship.

“Emotional eaters consume food to satisfy their brains rather than their stomachs,” said study author Professor Nicolas Girerd, coordinator of the Clinical Investigation Centre (CIC-P) and a cardiologist at the University Hospital of Nancy, France. “Mindful eating can help break this habit. It means taking time out to eat, either alone or with others, being in the moment and aware of what you are doing, and not being distracted by your phone or the TV.”

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“Stress might be one of the reasons for eating in response to feelings instead of hunger,” said lead author Dr. Sandra Wagner, a nutritional epidemiologist at the CIC-P. “We know that emotional eaters are less aware of hunger and satiety but mindful eating brings attention to these physical sensations. Physical activity – either a walk or more intense exercise – is another way to avoid emotional eating because it relieves stress and provides a replacement activity. Just 10 minutes a day of meditation or breathing exercises can also help to recenter and reduce stress. To sum up, use the three Ms to kick the habit of emotional eating: move, meditate and mindful eating.”

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A brain mechanism underlying the evolution of anxiety

Monoamine neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine play important roles in our cognitive and emotional functions. Their evolutionary origins date back to metazoans, and while the function of related genes is strongly evolutionarily conserved, genetic variation within and between species has been reported to have a significant impact on animal mental characteristics such as sociality, aggression, anxiety, and depression.

A research group led by Dr Daiki Sato and Professor Masakado Kawata has previously reported that the vesicular monoamine transporter 1 (VMAT1) gene, which transports neurotransmitters to secretory vesicles in neurons and secretory cells, has evolved through natural selection during human evolution. In particular, the 136th amino acid locus of this gene has evolved in the human lineage from asparagine (Asn) to threonine (Thr), and moreover, a new allele (isoleucine, Ile) has emerged and increased in its frequencies around the world. Previous reports suggested that people with the Ile genotype are less prone to depression and anxiety than those with the Thr genotype, but it was unclear how these human-specific mutations function in the brain and lead to changes in neuropsychiatric behavior.

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Social media break improves mental health – Study

Asking people to stop using social media for just one week could lead to significant improvements in their wellbeing, depression and anxiety and could, in the future, be recommended as a way to help people manage their mental health say the authors of a new study.

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The study, carried out by a team of researchers at the University of Bath (UK), studied the mental health effects of a week-long social media break. For some participants in the study, this meant freeing-up around nine hours of their week which would otherwise have been spent scrolling Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok.

Their results – published, Friday 6 May 2022, in the US journal ‘Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking’ – suggest that just one week off social media improved individuals’ overall level of well-being, as well as reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.

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Botox injections may reduce anxiety

Botox, or Botulinum toxin, a medication derived from a bacterial toxin, is commonly injected to ease wrinkles, migraines, muscle spasms, excessive sweating and incontinence. Researchers at Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at University of California San Diego, in collaboration with two physicians from Germany, may have found a new use thanks to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Adverse Effect Reporting System (FAERS) database, in which nearly 40,000 people reported what happened to them after Botox treatment for a variety of reasons.

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The study, publishing Dec. 21, 2021 in the journal Scientific Reports, found that people receiving Botox injections at four different sites — not just in the forehead — reported anxiety significantly less often than patients undergoing different treatments for the same conditions. 

“A large number of diverse adverse effects are being reported to the FDA and the main objective usually is to find those harmful side effects that had not been identified during clinical trials,” said Ruben Abagyan, PhD, professor of pharmacy. “However, our idea was different. Why don’t we do the opposite? Why don’t we find beneficial effects?”

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COVID-19 may have increased mental health issues within families – Study

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, many families found themselves suddenly isolated together at home. A year later, new research has linked this period with a variety of large, detrimental effects on individuals’ and families’ well-being and functioning.

The study — led by Penn State researchers — found that in the first months of the pandemic, parents reported that their children were experiencing much higher levels of “internalizing” problems like depression and anxiety, and “externalizing” problems such as disruptive and aggressive behavior, than before the pandemic. Parents also reported that they themselves were experiencing much higher levels of depression and lower levels of coparenting quality with their partners.

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Mark Feinberg, research professor of health and human development at Penn State, said the results — recently published in the journal Family Process — give insight into just how devastating periods of family and social stress can be for parents and children, and how important a good coparenting relationship can be for family well-being.

“Stress in general — whether daily hassles or acute, crisis-driven stress — typically leads to greater conflict and hostility in family relationships,” Feinberg said. “If parents can support each other in these situations, the evidence from past research indicates that they will be able to be more patient and more supportive with their children, rather than becoming more harsh and angry.”

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Depression, not anxiety, linked with inflammation and metabolic change

Anxiety and depression are often linked and assumed to be closely related, but now research has shown for the first time that depression and anxiety have different biochemical associations with inflammation and lipid (fat) metabolism. This indicates that different, more targeted treatments may be possible to treat anxiety and depression. This work was presented at the ECNP Congress.

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Depression and anxiety share several symptoms, have common risk factors, and often they are treated with the same drugs. Over 50% of patients with depression (Major Depressive Disorder) also have a history of anxiety. Nevertheless, psychiatrists classify them as different disorders, although until now it has been difficult to identify biochemical evidence for this.

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Yoga Can Improve Anxiety – Study

Having practiced yoga on an off for over 30 years, I am a believer in its benefits in terms of flexibility, relaxation and strength. I do confess, however, a general ignorance of the anxiety disorder and treatments for it.

Yoga improves symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, a condition with chronic nervousness and worry, suggesting the popular practice may be helpful in treating anxiety in some people.

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Led by researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, a new study found that yoga was significantly more effective for generalized anxiety disorder than standard education on stress management, but not as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the gold standard form of structured talk therapy that helps patients identify negative thinking for better responses to challenges. Continue reading

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Depression, anxiety may be side effects of COVID-19

Millions of Americans are being impacted by the psychological fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic aftermath, and large numbers may experience emotional distress and be at increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety, according to a new article published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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The Perspective article, co-authored by Carol North, M.D., a UT Southwestern crisis psychiatrist who has studied survivors of disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina, calls on already stretched health care providers to monitor the psychosocial needs of their patients as well as themselves and fellow health care workers during this time. Continue reading

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High screen use tied to symptoms of anxiety in adolescence

A new study, by researchers Drs. Boers, Afzali and Conrod who are affiliated with CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center and the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Montreal, reveals that social media use, television viewing and computer use, but not video gaming, are linked to an increase in anxiety symptoms among adolescents.

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The study, published in academic outlet the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, shows that a higher than average frequency of social media use, television viewing and computer use over four years predicts more severe symptoms of anxiety over that same time frame. Over and above a potential common vulnerability to both sets of behaviors, the study demonstrates that if a teen experienced an increase in their social media use, television viewing and computer use in a given year which surpassed their overall average level of use, then his or her anxiety symptoms also increased in that same year. Furthermore, when adolescents decreased their social media use, television viewing, and computer use, their symptoms of anxiety became less severe. Thus, no lasting effects were found. Continue reading

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Our interest in CBD eclipses nearly all other health products or topics – Study

A new study published in JAMA Network Open led by UC San Diego health scientists finds that every month as many as 6.4 million Americans turn to Google to learn about or buy Cannabidiol (CBD), eclipsing or rivaling interest in most other health products or topics .  Source: Elevated Science Communications

Touted as a “cure all,” researchers have documented unfounded claims that CBD treats acne, anxiety, opioid addiction, pain, and menstrual problems. You can buy CBD droplets, massage oils, gummies, or even CBD ice cream. But public health leaders have been mostly silent on the subject because they lacked data that demonstrates just how popular CBD is.

In the interest of full disclosure, I use and have posted on, CBD oil for arthritis relief in my hands.

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To further appreciate CBD’s exploding popularity the team contrasted search query volumes for CBD against those for other trending health topics, products, or alternative medicines. The image is in the public domain.

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Why stress and anxiety aren’t always bad

People generally think of stress and anxiety as negative concepts, but while both stress and anxiety can reach unhealthy levels, psychologists have long known that both are unavoidable — and that they often play a helpful, not harmful, role in our daily lives, according to a presentation at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association.

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“Many Americans now feel stressed about being stressed and anxious about being anxious. Unfortunately, by the time someone reaches out to a professional for help, stress and anxiety have already built to unhealthy levels,” said Lisa Damour, PhD, a private-practice psychologist who presented at the meeting. Damour also writes a regular column for The New York Times and is author of the book “Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls.” Continue reading

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The Everyday Foods Linked To Good Mental Health

Our Better Health

The foods can offset the impact of major life events, like divorce and unemployment.

Eating more fruits and vegetables is linked to a lower risk of depression new research concludes.

An extra four portions of fruit and vegetables per day can offset the impact of major life events, like divorce and unemployment.

The boost from more fruit and vegetables could counteract half the pain of getting divorced or one-quarter that of being unemployed.

The effect on mental well-being of eating 8 portions per day compared with none is even more dramatic.

These benefits come on top of the well-known protective effect against cancer and heart disease.

The conclusions come from an Australian survey of 7,108 people carried out every year since 2001.

All were asked about their diet and lifestyle.

The results showed that the more fruit and vegetables people ate, the less likely they were to be diagnosed with…

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Why some people always focus on the negative – MIT Study

I am a big supporter of Positivity. You can check out my Page, which includes a super graphic video, Positive psychology – What’s it all about? 

The following study was written up by Anne Trafton of the MIT News office.

Many patients with neuropsychiatric disorders such as anxiety or depression experience negative moods that lead them to focus on the possible downside of a given situation more than the potential benefit.

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MIT neuroscientists have found that stimulating part of the striatum can induce feelings of pessimism. (Anatomography/Life Science Databases)

MIT neuroscientists have now pinpointed a brain region that can generate this type of pessimistic mood. In tests in animals, they showed that stimulating this region, known as the caudate nucleus, induced animals to make more negative decisions: They gave far more weight to the anticipated drawback of a situation than its benefit, compared to when the region was not stimulated. This pessimistic decision-making could continue through the day after the original stimulation. Continue reading

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Music and heart health – Harvard

As a lifetime music lover, I was pleased to read this item on it value in the Harvard Health Blog by Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter. One of my happiest discoveries in the past few years was a blue tooth speaker on a water bottle. I have my choice of over 1000 tunes on my iPhone to accompany me on the bike. Riding to music beats my previous soundless rides.

What’s your “cheer up” song? That question popped up on a recent text thread among a few of my longtime friends. It spurred a list of songs from the ‘70s and ‘80s, back when we were in high school and college. But did you know that music may actually help boost your health as well as your mood?

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Music engages not only your auditory system but many other parts of your brain as well, including areas responsible for movement, language, attention, memory, and emotion. “There is no other stimulus on earth that simultaneously engages our brains as widely as music does,” says Brian Harris, certified neurologic music therapist at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. This global activation happens whether you listen to music, play an instrument, or sing — even informally in the car or the shower, he says. Continue reading

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Exercise combats addiction – Study

As far as I am concerned when it comes to the benefits to our body and brain from exercise, the hits just keep on coming. The University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions reports the following good news.

Summary: Researchers report, in animal models of addiction, daily aerobic exercise alters the mesolimbic dopamine pathway in the brain.

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Daily aerobic exercise altered the mesolimbic dopamine pathway in the brain. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

New research by the University has identified a key mechanism in how aerobic exercise can help impact the brain in ways that may support treatment — and even prevention strategies — for addiction.

Also known as “cardio,” aerobic exercise is brisk exercise that increases heart rate, breathing and circulation of oxygen through the blood, and is associated with decreasing many negative health issues, including diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. It also is linked to numerous mental health benefits, such as reducing stress, anxiety and depression. Continue reading

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