Mind

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Think you’ve decided what to buy? Actually, your brain is still deciding – even as you put it in your basket

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/tijl-grootswagers-954175">Tijl Grootswagers</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/western-sydney-university-1092">Western Sydney University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/genevieve-l-quek-1447582">Genevieve L Quek</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/western-sydney-university-1092">Western Sydney University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/manuel-varlet-156210">Manuel Varlet</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/western-sydney-university-1092">Western Sydney University</a></em></p> <p>You are standing in the cereal aisle, weighing up whether to buy a healthy bran or a sugary chocolate-flavoured alternative.</p> <p>Your hand hovers momentarily before you make the final grab.</p> <p>But did you know that during those last few seconds, while you’re reaching out, your brain is still evaluating the pros and cons – influenced by everything from your last meal, the health star rating, the catchy jingle in the ad, and the colours of the letters on the box?</p> <p>Our recently published <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-024-62135-7">research</a> shows our brains do not just think first and then act. Even while you are reaching for a product on a supermarket shelf, your brain is still evaluating whether you are making the right choice.</p> <p>Further, we found measuring hand movements offers an accurate window into the brain’s ongoing evaluation of the decision – you don’t have to hook people up to expensive brain scanners.</p> <p>What does this say about our decision-making? And what does it mean for consumers and the people marketing to them?</p> <h2>What hand movements tell us about decision-making</h2> <p>There has been <a href="https://www.annualreviews.org/content/journals/10.1146/annurev-psych-010419-051053">debate within neuroscience</a> on whether a person’s movements to enact a decision can be modified once the brain’s “motor plan” has been made.</p> <p>Our research revealed not only that movements can be changed after a decision – “in flight” – but also the changes matched incoming information from a person’s senses.</p> <p>To study <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-024-62135-7">how our decisions unfold over time</a>, we tracked people’s hand movements as they reached for different options shown in pictures – for example, in response to the question “is this picture a face or an object?”</p> <p>When choices were easy, their hands moved straight to the right option. But when choices were harder, new information made the brain change its mind, and this was reflected in the trajectory of their hand movements.</p> <p>When we compared these hand movement trajectories to brain activity recorded using neuroimaging, we found that the timing and amount of evidence of the brain’s evaluation matched the movement pattern.</p> <p>Put simply, reaching movements are shaped by ongoing thinking and decision-making.</p> <p>By showing that brain patterns match movement trajectories, our research also highlights that large, expensive brain scanners may not always be required to study the brain’s decision evaluation processes, as movement tracking is much more cost-effective and much easier to test on a large scale.</p> <h2>What does this mean for consumers and marketers?</h2> <p>For consumers, knowing our brains are always reevaluating decisions we might think of as “final” can help us be more aware of our choices.</p> <p>For simple decisions such as choosing a breakfast cereal, the impact may be small. Even if you have preemptively decided on a healthy option, you might be tempted at the last minute by the flashy packaging of a less healthy choice.</p> <p>But for important long-term decisions such as choosing a mortgage, it can have serious effects.</p> <p>On the other side of the coin, marketers have long known that many purchase decisions are <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0969698912000781">made on the spot</a>.</p> <p>They use strategies such as attractive packaging and strategic product placement to influence people’s decisions.</p> <p>New ways of studying how people’s brains process information – right up to the last minute – can help marketers design more effective strategies.</p> <h2>Opportunities for further research</h2> <p>Further research in this area could explore how different types of information, such as environmental cues or memories, affect this continuous decision evaluation process in different groups of people. For example, how do people of different ages process information while making decisions?</p> <p>Our finding – that hand movements reflect the inner workings of the brain’s decision making process – could make future studies cheaper and more efficient.</p> <p>The ability to fine-tune marketing in this way has implications beyond just selling products. It can also make public strategic messaging far more effective.</p> <p>This could include tailoring a public health campaign on vaping specifically for people aged under 30, or targeting messaging about superannuation scams more effectively at those of retirement age.</p> <p>The act of reaching for a product is not a simple consequence of a decision already made; it’s a highly dynamic process. Being aware of what influences our last-minute decision-making can help us make better choices that have better outcomes.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/234167/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/tijl-grootswagers-954175">Tijl Grootswagers</a>, Senior Research Fellow in Cognitive Neuroscience, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/western-sydney-university-1092">Western Sydney University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/genevieve-l-quek-1447582">Genevieve L Quek</a>, Research Fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/western-sydney-university-1092">Western Sydney University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/manuel-varlet-156210">Manuel Varlet</a>, Associate Professor in Cognitive Neuroscience, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/western-sydney-university-1092">Western Sydney University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/think-youve-decided-what-to-buy-actually-your-brain-is-still-deciding-even-as-you-put-it-in-your-basket-234167">original article</a>.</em></p>

Mind

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Tastes from our past can spark memories, trigger pain or boost wellbeing. Here’s how to embrace food nostalgia

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/megan-lee-490875">Megan Lee</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/doug-angus-1542552">Doug Angus</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kate-simpson-1542551">Kate Simpson</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a></em></p> <p>Have you ever tried to bring back fond memories by eating or drinking something unique to that time and place?</p> <p>It could be a Pina Colada that recalls an island holiday? Or a steaming bowl of pho just like the one you had in Vietnam? Perhaps eating a favourite dish reminds you of a lost loved one – like the sticky date pudding Nanna used to make?</p> <p>If you have, you have tapped into <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02699931.2022.2142525">food-evoked nostalgia</a>.</p> <p>As researchers, we are exploring how eating and drinking certain things from your past may be important for your mood and mental health.</p> <h2>Bittersweet longing</h2> <p>First named in 1688 by Swiss medical student, <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/44437799">Johannes Hoffer</a>, <a href="https://compass.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/spc3.12070">nostalgia</a> is that bittersweet, sentimental longing for the past. It is experienced <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-8721.2008.00595.x">universally</a> across different cultures and lifespans from childhood into older age.</p> <p>But nostalgia does not just involve positive or happy memories – we can also experience nostalgia for <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0022-3514.91.5.975">sad and unhappy moments</a> in our lives.</p> <p>In the <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Femo0000817">short and long term</a>, nostalgia can positively impact our health by improving <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fa0025167">mood</a> and <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Femo0000817">wellbeing</a>, fostering <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fa0017597">social connection</a> and increasing quality of life. It can also trigger feelings of <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Femo0000817">loneliness or meaninglessness</a>.</p> <p>We can use nostalgia to <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fa0025167">turn around a negative mood</a> or enhance our sense of <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Femo0000817">self, meaning and positivity</a>.</p> <p>Research suggests nostalgia alters activity in the <a href="https://academic.oup.com/scan/article/17/12/1131/6585517">brain regions associated with reward processing</a> – the same areas involved when we seek and receive things we like. This could explain the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2352250X22002445?via%3Dihub">positive feelings</a> it can bring.</p> <p>Nostalgia can also increase feelings of loneliness and sadness, particularly if the memories highlight dissatisfaction, grieving, loss, or wistful feelings for the past. This is likely due to activation of <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352250X22002445?casa_token=V31ORDWcsx4AAAAA:Vef9hiwUz9506f5PYGsXH-JxCcnsptQnVPNaAGares2xTU5JbKSHakwGpLxSRO2dNckrdFGubA">brain areas</a> such as the amygdala, responsible for processing emotions and the prefrontal cortex that helps us integrate feelings and memories and regulate emotion.</p> <h2>How to get back there</h2> <p>There are several ways we can <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/fulltext/2006-20034-013.html">trigger</a> or tap into nostalgia.</p> <p>Conversations with family and friends who have shared experiences, unique objects like photos, and smells can <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2352250X23000076">transport us back</a> to old times or places. So can a favourite song or old TV show, reunions with former classmates, even social media <a href="https://www.theverge.com/2015/3/24/8284703/facebook-on-this-day-nostalgia-recap">posts and anniversaries</a>.</p> <p>What we eat and drink can trigger <a href="https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/QMR-06-2012-0027/full/html">food-evoked nostalgia</a>. For instance, when we think of something as “<a href="https://theconversation.com/health-check-why-do-we-crave-comfort-food-in-winter-118776">comfort food</a>”, there are likely elements of nostalgia at play.</p> <p>Foods you found comforting as a child can evoke memories of being cared for and nurtured by loved ones. The form of these foods and the stories we tell about them may have been handed down through generations.</p> <p>Food-evoked nostalgia can be very powerful because it engages multiple senses: taste, smell, texture, sight and sound. The sense of <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09658211.2013.876048?casa_token=wqShWbRXJaYAAAAA%3AqJabgHtEbPtEQp7qHnl7wOb527bpGxzIJ_JwQX8eAyq1IrM_HQFIng8ELAMyuoFoeZyiX1zeJTPf">smell</a> is closely linked to the limbic system in the brain responsible for emotion and memory making food-related memories particularly vivid and emotionally charged.</p> <p>But, food-evoked nostalgia can also give rise to <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/hpja.873">negative memories</a>, such as of being forced to eat a certain vegetable you disliked as a child, or a food eaten during a sad moment like a loved ones funeral. Understanding why these foods <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02699931.2022.2142525?casa_token=16kAPHUQTukAAAAA%3A9IDvre8yUT8UsuiR_ltsG-3qgE2sdkIFgcrdH3T5EYbVEP9JZwPcsbmsPLT6Kch5EFFs9RPsMTNn">evoke negative memories</a> could help us process and overcome some of our adult food aversions. Encountering these foods in a positive light may help us reframe the memory associated with them.</p> <h2>What people told us about food and nostalgia</h2> <p>Recently <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/hpja.873">we interviewed eight Australians</a> and asked them about their experiences with food-evoked nostalgia and the influence on their mood. We wanted to find out whether they experienced food-evoked nostalgia and if so, what foods triggered pleasant and unpleasant memories and feelings for them.</p> <p>They reported they could use foods that were linked to times in their past to manipulate and influence their mood. Common foods they described as particularly nostalgia triggering were homemade meals, foods from school camp, cultural and ethnic foods, childhood favourites, comfort foods, special treats and snacks they were allowed as children, and holiday or celebration foods. One participant commented:</p> <blockquote> <p>I guess part of this nostalgia is maybe […] The healing qualities that food has in mental wellbeing. I think food heals for us.</p> </blockquote> <p>Another explained</p> <blockquote> <p>I feel really happy, and I guess fortunate to have these kinds of foods that I can turn to, and they have these memories, and I love the feeling of nostalgia and reminiscing and things that remind me of good times.</p> </blockquote> <p>Understanding food-evoked nostalgia is valuable because it provides us with an insight into how our sensory experiences and emotions intertwine with our memories and identity. While we know a lot about how food triggers nostalgic memories, there is still much to learn about the specific brain areas involved and the differences in food-evoked nostalgia in different cultures.</p> <p>In the future we may be able to use the science behind food-evoked nostalgia to help people experiencing dementia to tap into lost memories or in psychological therapy to help people reframe negative experiences.</p> <p>So, if you are ever feeling a little down and want to improve your mood, consider turning to one of your favourite comfort foods that remind you of home, your loved ones or a holiday long ago. Transporting yourself back to those times could help turn things around.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/232826/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/megan-lee-490875">Megan Lee</a>, Senior Teaching Fellow, Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/doug-angus-1542552">Doug Angus</a>, Assistant Professor of Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kate-simpson-1542551">Kate Simpson</a>, Sessional academic, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/tastes-from-our-past-can-spark-memories-trigger-pain-or-boost-wellbeing-heres-how-to-embrace-food-nostalgia-232826">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Wellness is not women’s friend. It’s a distraction from what really ails us

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kate-seers-1131296">Kate Seers</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/charles-sturt-university-849">Charles Sturt University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/rachel-hogg-321332">Rachel Hogg</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/charles-sturt-university-849">Charles Sturt University</a></em></p> <p>Wellness is mainly marketed to women. We’re encouraged to eat clean, take <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CYqaatWPxvy/">personal responsibility</a> for our well-being, happiness and life. These are the hallmarks of a strong, independent woman in 2022.</p> <p>But on the eve of International Women’s Day, let’s look closer at this <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-neoliberalism-colonised-feminism-and-what-you-can-do-about-it-94856">neoliberal feminist</a> notion of wellness and personal responsibility – the idea women’s health and well-being depends on our individual choices.</p> <p>We argue wellness is not concerned with actual well-being, whatever wellness “guru” and businesswoman Gwyneth Paltrow <a href="https://goop.com/wellness/">suggests</a>, or influencers say on Instagram.</p> <p>Wellness is an industry. It’s also a seductive distraction from what’s really impacting women’s lives. It glosses over the structural issues undermining women’s well-being. These issues cannot be fixed by drinking a turmeric latte or #livingyourbestlife.</p> <h2>What is wellness?</h2> <p>Wellness <a href="https://globalwellnessinstitute.org/press-room/statistics-and-facts/">is an</a> unregulated US$4.4 trillion global industry due to reach almost $7 trillion by 2025. It promotes self-help, self-care, fitness, nutrition and spiritual practice. It <a href="https://globalwellnessinstitute.org/what-is-wellness/">encourages</a> good choices, intentions and actions.</p> <p>Wellness is alluring because it feels empowering. Women are left with a sense of control over their lives. It is particularly alluring in times of great uncertainty and limited personal control. These might be during a relationship break up, when facing financial instability, workplace discrimination or a global pandemic.</p> <p>But wellness is not all it seems.</p> <h2>Wellness blames women</h2> <p>Wellness implies women are flawed and need to be fixed. It demands women resolve their psychological distress, improve their lives and <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1360780418769673?journalCode=sroa">bounce back from adversity</a>, regardless of personal circumstances.</p> <p>Self-responsibility, self-empowerment and self-optimisation underpin how women are expected to think and behave.</p> <p>As such, wellness <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CZs2iIxrSwb/">patronises women</a> and <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CT3bw_Yhsp6/">micro-manages their daily schedules</a> with journaling, skin care routines, 30-day challenges, meditations, burning candles, yoga and lemon water.</p> <p>Wellness encourages women to improve their appearance through diet and exercise, manage <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CZ7IO7qJHZ_/">their surroundings</a>, <a href="https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/5489-female-leadership-advice.html">performance at work</a> and their capacity to <a href="https://www.apa.org/topics/covid-19/working-women-balance">juggle the elusive work-life balance</a> as well as <a href="https://medium.com/authority-magazine/having-a-positive-mental-attitude-and-thinking-process-is-a-successful-key-to-healthy-wellbeing-ae11e303969c">their emotional responses</a> <a href="https://theconversation.com/planning-stress-and-worry-put-the-mental-load-on-mothers-will-2022-be-the-year-they-share-the-burden-172599">to these pressures</a>. They do this with support from costly life coaches, psychotherapists and self-help guides.</p> <p>Wellness demands women <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CaFc2o7OHSf/">focus on their body</a>, with one’s body a measure of their commitment to the task of wellness. Yet this ignores how much these choices and actions cost.</p> <p>Newsreader and journalist Tracey Spicer <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CaDh28nBp4k/">says</a> she has spent more than A$100,000 over the past 35 years for her hair to “look acceptable” at work.</p> <p>Wellness keeps women <a href="https://www.hercampus.com/school/bu/the-male-gazes-effect-from-beauty-ideals-to-mental-health/">focused on their appearance</a> and keeps them spending.</p> <p>It’s also <a href="https://medium.com/artfullyautistic/the-dark-reality-of-wellness-culture-and-ableism-307307fcdafb">ableist</a>, <a href="https://www.byrdie.com/wellness-industry-whitewashing-5074880">racist</a>, <a href="https://msmagazine.com/2020/07/16/tools-of-the-patriarchy-diet-culture-and-how-we-all-perpetuate-the-stigma/">sexist</a>, <a href="https://www.self.com/topic/anti-aging">ageist</a> and <a href="https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/on-the-inside/422517/the-pursuit-of-wellness-wellness-is-for-the-wealthy">classist</a>. It’s aimed at an ideal of young women, thin, white, middle-class and able-bodied.</p> <h2>But we can’t live up to these ideals</h2> <p>Wellness assumes women have equal access to time, energy and money to meet these ideals. If you don’t, “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/may/08/the-self-help-cult-of-resilience-teaches-australians-nothing">you’re just not trying hard enough</a>”.</p> <p>Wellness also <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1360780418769673?journalCode=sroa">implores women</a> to be “adaptable and positive”.</p> <p>If an individual’s #positivevibes and wellness are seen as <a href="https://ideas.ted.com/why-we-should-say-no-to-positivity-and-yes-to-our-negative-emotions/">morally good</a>, then it becomes morally necessary for women to engage in behaviours framed as “investments” or “self-care”.</p> <p>For those who do not achieve self-optimisation (hint: most of us) this is a personal, shameful failing.</p> <h2>Wellness distracts us</h2> <p>When women believe they are to blame for their circumstances, it hides structural and cultural inequities. Rather than questioning the culture that marginalises women and produces feelings of doubt and inadequacy, wellness provides solutions in the form of superficial empowerment, confidence and resilience.</p> <p>Women don’t need wellness. They are unsafe.</p> <p><a href="https://www.ourwatch.org.au/quick-facts/">Women are</a> <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/crime-and-justice/personal-safety-australia/latest-release">more likely</a> to be murdered by a current or former intimate partner, with reports of the <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-governments-can-do-about-the-increase-in-family-violence-due-to-coronavirus-135674">pandemic increasing</a> the risk and severity of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/dec/01/the-worst-year-domestic-violence-soars-in-australia-during-covid-19">domestic violence</a>.</p> <p>Women are more likely to be employed in unstable <a href="https://lighthouse.mq.edu.au/article/april-2020/Pandemics-economic-blow-hits-women-hard">casualised labour, and experience economic hardship and poverty</a>. Women are also bearing the brunt <a href="https://grattan.edu.au/report/womens-work/">of the economic fallout from COVID</a>. Women are more likely to be juggling a career with <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/374/bmj.n1972">unpaid domestic duties</a> and more likely <a href="https://www.mercyfoundation.com.au/our-focus/ending-homelessness/older-women-and-homelessness/">to be homeless</a> as they near retirement age.</p> <p>In their book <a href="https://www.dukeupress.edu/confidence-culture#:%7E:text=They%20argue%20that%20while%20confidence,responsible%20for%20their%20own%20conditions.">Confidence Culture</a> UK scholars Shani Orgad and Rosalind Gill argue hashtags such as #loveyourbody and #believeinyourself imply psychological blocks, rather than entrenched social injustices, are what hold women back.</p> <h2>What we should be doing instead</h2> <p>Wellness, with its self-help rhetoric, <a href="http://www.consultmcgregor.com/documents/research/neoliberalism_and_health_care.pdf">absolves the government</a> of responsibility to provide transformative and effectual action that ensures women are safe, delivered justice, and treated with respect and dignity.</p> <p>Structural inequity was not created by an individual, and it will not be solved by an individual.</p> <p>So this International Women’s Day, try to resist the neoliberal requirement to take personal responsibility for your wellness. Lobby governments to address structural inequities instead.</p> <p><a href="https://www.mindful.org/why-women-should-embrace-their-anger/">Follow your anger</a>, not your bliss, call out injustices when you can. And in the words of sexual assault survivor and advocate Grace Tame, “make some noise”.</p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kate-seers-1131296">Kate Seers</a>, PhD Candidate, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/charles-sturt-university-849">Charles Sturt University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/rachel-hogg-321332">Rachel Hogg</a>, Lecturer in Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/charles-sturt-university-849">Charles Sturt University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/wellness-is-not-womens-friend-its-a-distraction-from-what-really-ails-us-177446">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Julian Assange was isolated for more than a decade. Here’s what that does to the body and mind

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/carol-maher-217811">Carol Maher</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/johanna-badcock-995697">Johanna Badcock</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-western-australia-1067">The University of Western Australia</a></em></p> <p>Anyone who lived through the COVID pandemic would likely understand that even a small period of isolation can cause <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35787541/">physical and mental stress</a>.</p> <p>WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange – <a href="https://theconversation.com/julian-assange-will-be-freed-after-striking-plea-deal-with-us-authorities-233210">who will return to Australia</a> after reaching a plea deal with the US Department of Justice – is <a href="https://www.afr.com/policy/foreign-affairs/his-health-is-very-risky-assange-s-brother-fears-for-his-life-20240327-p5ffjw">reported to have suffered</a> various mental and physical challenges during his almost 15 years in some form of isolation.</p> <p>Assange was first arrested in Britain in 2010 after Swedish authorities said they wanted to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2010/dec/17/julian-assange-sweden">question him over sex crime allegations</a>.</p> <p>After exhausting legal avenues to stop an extradition to Sweden, in June 2012 he entered <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/15/julian-assange-ecuador-london-embassy-how-he-became-unwelcome-guest">Ecuador’s embassy in London</a>, where he remained for seven years.</p> <p>In early 2019, he was <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKCN1S73H5/">jailed for skipping bail</a> and held at London’s Belmarsh prison where he spent most of the following five years fighting extradition to the US. Now, he’s coming home.</p> <p>While we have no idea how Assange is coping from being cooped up inside for so long with few visitors, we do know that isolation can have <a href="https://theconversation.com/my-own-prison-ordeal-gave-me-a-taste-of-what-assange-may-be-feeling-hes-out-but-the-chilling-effect-on-press-freedom-remains-233215">a severe negative impact</a> on many people.</p> <p><iframe id="qxq2l" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/qxq2l/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <h2>How physical inactivity impacts your body</h2> <p>Physical activity is vital for <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/articlepdf/2712935/jama_piercy_2018_sc_180005.pdf">overall health</a>. It keeps your heart strong, helps manage weight, and builds muscle and bone strength.</p> <p>Regular exercise also lifts your mood, reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, and sharpens your mind. Plus, it boosts your <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7195025/">immune system</a>, making you more resistant to infections and diseases.</p> <p>When you don’t move enough, especially in isolation, your health can take a hit. Muscles weaken and joints stiffen, making you less strong and flexible.</p> <p>Your <a href="https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1161/01.CIR.102.9.975">heart health</a> suffers, too, raising the risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes because your heart isn’t getting the workout it needs.</p> <p>Metabolic issues such as obesity and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6908414/">type 2 diabetes</a> become more common with inactivity, especially if you don’t have access to healthy food.</p> <p>Isolation often means less fresh air and sunlight, both crucial for good health. Poor ventilation can lead to <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/17/8/2927/pdf">respiratory problems</a>. Lack of sunlight can cause <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article-pdf/95/6/2630/9067013/jcem2630.pdf">vitamin D deficiency</a>, weakening bones and the immune system, and increasing the risk of fractures.</p> <p>These effects fit with the reports that Assange suffered a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2022/mar/23/today-i-will-marry-the-love-of-my-life-julian-assanges-fiancee">mini-stroke</a> in 2021 and a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2024/feb/18/julian-assange-press-freedom-wikileaks-uk-high-court">broken rib</a> from persistent coughing fits while in isolation.</p> <h2>What about mental health?</h2> <p>Social disconnection comes in two main forms, both of which have serious consequences for our mental health.</p> <p>The first is social isolation. The reasons for being isolated are many and varied, including geographical distance, lack of access to transport, or incarceration.</p> <p>The end result is the same: you have few relationships, social roles or group memberships, and limited social interaction.</p> <p>The second form of social disconnection is more invisible but just as harmful.</p> <p><a href="https://psychology.org.au/for-the-public/psychology-topics/loneliness">Loneliness</a> is that subjective, unpleasant feeling of wanting but lacking satisfying relationships with others.</p> <p>You can be isolated and not feel lonely, but the two are often unwelcome bedfellows.</p> <p>Social connection is not a luxury. It’s a fundamental need, as essential to our health as food and water.</p> <p>Just as hunger reminds us to eat, <a href="https://healthymale.org.au/health-article/what-is-loneliness-and-social-isolation">loneliness acts as a signal</a> alerting us that our social relationships are weak and need to be improved if we are to remain healthy.</p> <p>The science around the health impacts of social disconnection is clear, especially when it is prolonged. So much so, the World Health Organization recently launched a <a href="https://www.who.int/groups/commission-on-social-connection">Commission on Social Connection</a> to increase awareness of the impact of social isolation and loneliness on health and have it recognised as a global health priority.</p> <p>Substantial evidence shows social isolation and loneliness are linked to poorer cognitive functioning and an increased risk of dementia, though possibly in <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9995915/">different ways</a>.</p> <p>Among adults aged 50 years and over, chronic (meaning persistent and severe) loneliness and social isolation may increase the risk of dementia by <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13651501.2021.1959616">around 50%</a>.</p> <p>A lack of cognitive stimulation that naturally occurs when interacting with others, whether it’s old friends or strangers, might explain <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9995915/">the link</a> between social isolation and cognitive difficulties (think “use it or lose it”).</p> <p>On the other hand, loneliness <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9995915/">may impact cognitive health</a> through its effects on emotional wellbeing. It’s <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-13049-9">a well-known risk factor</a> for developing depression, anxiety and suicidality.</p> <p>For instance, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35583561/">studies show</a> the chances of developing depression in adults is more than double in people who often feel lonely, compared with those who rarely or never feel lonely.</p> <p>Other research examining 500,000 middle-aged adults over nine years showed living alone doubled the risk of dying by suicide for men, while loneliness <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33096330">increased the risk of hospitalisation</a> for self-harm in both men and women.</p> <p>In a <a href="https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/surgeon-general-social-connection-advisory.pdf">2023 report</a>, the US Surgeon General’s advisory concluded:</p> <blockquote> <p>Given the totality of the evidence, social connection may be one of the strongest protective factors against self-harm and suicide among people with and without serious underlying mental health challenges.</p> </blockquote> <h2>What about after release?</h2> <p>When a person leaves long-term isolation, they’ll face many challenges as they re-enter society.</p> <p>The world will have changed. There’s a lot to catch up on, from technological advancements to shifts in social norms.</p> <p>In addition to these broader changes, there’s a need to focus on rebuilding physical and mental health. Health issues that developed during isolation can <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30460-8/fulltext?cid=in%3Adisplay%3Alfhtn0&amp;dclid=CNKCgb7nle0CFVUkjwodG0YCkg">persist or worsen</a>. A weakened immune system might struggle with new infections in a post-COVID world.</p> <p>To navigate this transition, it’s important to establish a routine that includes regular exercise, nutritious meals and comprehensive medical and psychological care.</p> <p>Gradually increasing social interactions can also help in rebuilding relationships and social connections. These steps are supportive in restoring overall health and wellbeing in a changed world.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/233214/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/carol-maher-217811">Carol Maher</a>, Professor, Medical Research Future Fund Emerging Leader, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/johanna-badcock-995697">Johanna Badcock</a>, Adjunct Professor, School of Psychological Science | Freelance Research Consultant, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-western-australia-1067">The University of Western Australia</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Ray Tang/Shutterstock Editorial </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/julian-assange-was-isolated-for-more-than-a-decade-heres-what-that-does-to-the-body-and-mind-233214">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Mind

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Is social media making you unhappy? The answer is not so simple

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/melissa-humphries-584274">Melissa Humphries</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-adelaide-1119">University of Adelaide</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lewis-mitchell-266859">Lewis Mitchell</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-adelaide-1119">University of Adelaide</a></em></p> <p>You may have seen headlines that link social media to sadness and depression. Social media use goes up, happiness goes down. But recent studies suggest those findings might not be so straightforward.</p> <p>Although it is true that people’s feelings of envy and depression are linked to high social media use, there is evidence to suggest social media use may not be <em>causing</em> that relationship. Instead, your mindset may be the biggest thing affecting how social media connects to your wellbeing.</p> <p>People who feel they are able to use social media, rather than social media “using them”, tend to gain more benefits from their online interactions.</p> <h2>Why do people use social media?</h2> <p>Social media covers a broad range of platforms: social networking, discussion forums, bookmarking and sharing content, disseminating news, exchanging media like photos and videos, and microblogging. These appeal to a wide range of users, from individuals of all ages through to massive businesses.</p> <p>For some, social media is a way to connect with people we may not otherwise see. In the United States, 39% of people say they <a href="https://www.americansurveycenter.org/research/the-state-of-american-friendship-change-challenges-and-loss">are friends with people they only interact with online</a>.</p> <p>For older people, this is especially important for increasing feelings of connectedness and wellbeing. Interestingly though, for older people, <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563223004545">social media contact with family does not increase happiness</a>. Meanwhile, younger adults report <em>increased</em> happiness when they have more social media contact with family members.</p> <p>Teens, in particular, find social media most useful for <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2022/11/16/connection-creativity-and-drama-teen-life-on-social-media-in-2022/">deepening connections and building their social networks</a>.</p> <p>With social media clearly playing such an important role in society, many researchers have tried to figure out: does it make us happier or not?</p> <h2>Does social media make us happier?</h2> <p>Studies have taken a variety of approaches, including asking people directly through surveys or looking at the content people post and seeing how positive or negative it is.</p> <p>One survey study from 2023 showed that as individuals’ social media use increased, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/372582895_The_Relationship_Between_Social_Media_Addiction_Happiness_and_Life_Satisfaction_in_Adults_Analysis_with_Machine_Learning_Approach">life satisfaction and happiness decreased</a>. Another found that <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0144929X.2023.2286529">less time on social media</a> was related to increases in work satisfaction, work engagement and positive mental health – so improved mental health and motivation at work.</p> <p>Comparing yourself to others on social media is connected to feelings of envy and depression. However, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9955439/">there is evidence</a> to suggest depression is the predictor, rather than the outcome, of both social comparison and envy.</p> <p>All this shows <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jcmc/article/29/1/zmad048/7612379?login=false">the way you <em>feel</em> about social media matters</a>. People who see themselves using social media rather than “being used” by it, tend to gain benefits from social media and not experience the harms.</p> <p>Interviews with young people (15–24 years) using social media suggest that positive mental health among that age group was influenced by <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8933808/">three features</a>:</p> <ul> <li>connection with friends and their global community</li> <li>engagement with social media content</li> <li>the value of social media as an outlet for expression.</li> </ul> <p>There are also studies that look at the emotions expressed by more frequent social media users.</p> <p>The so-called “<a href="https://epjdatascience.springeropen.com/articles/10.1140/epjds/s13688-017-0100-1">happiness paradox</a>” shows that most people think their friends on social media appear happier than themselves. This is a <a href="https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3110025.3110027">seeming impossibility</a> that arises because of <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/srep04603">the mathematical properties</a> of how friendship networks work on social media.</p> <p>In one of our studies, Twitter content with recorded locations showed residents of cities in the United States that <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/figure?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0064417.g007">tweeted more tended to express less happiness</a>.</p> <p>On the other hand, in Instagram direct messages, happiness has been found to be <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/20563051241229655">four times more prevalent than sadness</a>.</p> <h2>How does internet use in general affect our wellbeing?</h2> <p>Some of the factors associated with decreased mental health are not aligned with social media use alone.</p> <p><a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0963721419838244">One recent study</a> shows that the path to decreased wellbeing is, at least partially, connected to digital media use overall (rather than social media use specifically). This can be due to sleep disruption, reduced face-to-face social interaction or physical activity, social comparison, and cyberbullying. None of these exist for social media alone.</p> <p>However, social media platforms are known to be driven by recommendation algorithms that may send us down “rabbit holes” of the same type of (increasingly extreme) content. This can lead to a distorted view of the world and our place in it. The important point here is to maintain a diverse and balanced information diet online.</p> <p>Interestingly, interacting on social media is not the only thing affecting our mental state. <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0090315">Rainfall influnces</a> the emotional content of social media posts of both the user experiencing rain, and parts of their extended network (even if they don’t experience rain!).</p> <p>This suggests that how we feel is influenced by the emotions in the posts we see. The good news is that happy posts are the most influential, with each happy post encouraging close to two additional happy updates from a user’s friends.</p> <p>The secret to online happiness therefore may not be to “delete your account” entirely (which, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-018-0510-5">as we have found</a>, may not even be effective), but to be mindful about what you consume online. And if you feel like social media is starting to use you, it might be time to change it up a bit.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/232490/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/melissa-humphries-584274">Melissa Humphries</a>, Senior Lecturer, School of Computer and Mathematical Sciences, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-adelaide-1119">University of Adelaide</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lewis-mitchell-266859">Lewis Mitchell</a>, Professor of Data Science, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-adelaide-1119">University of Adelaide</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/is-social-media-making-you-unhappy-the-answer-is-not-so-simple-232490">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Do you have a mental illness? Why some people answer ‘yes’, even if they haven’t been diagnosed

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jesse-tse-1429151">Jesse Tse</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nick-haslam-10182">Nick Haslam</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722"><em>The University of Melbourne</em></a></em></p> <p>Mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety disorders have become more prevalent, especially among <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/mental-health/overview/prevalence-and-impact-of-mental-illness#changeovertime">young people</a>. Demand for treatment is surging and prescriptions of some <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35176912/">psychiatric medications</a> have climbed.</p> <p>These upswinging prevalence trends are paralleled by rising public attention to mental illness. Mental health messages saturate traditional and social media. Organisations and governments are developing awareness, prevention and treatment initiatives with growing urgency.</p> <p>The mounting cultural focus on mental health has obvious benefits. It increases awareness, reduces stigma and promotes help-seeking.</p> <p>However, it may also have costs. Critics worry <a href="https://www.bacp.co.uk/bacp-journals/therapy-today/2023/april-2023/the-big-issue/">social media</a> sites are incubating mental illness and that ordinary unhappiness is being pathologised by the overuse of diagnostic concepts and “<a href="https://www.bustle.com/wellness/is-therapy-speak-making-us-selfish">therapy speak</a>”.</p> <p>British psychologist <a href="https://www.psych.ox.ac.uk/team/lucy-foulkes">Lucy Foulkes</a> argues the trends for rising attention and prevalence are linked. Her “<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0732118X2300003X">prevalence inflation hypothesis</a>” proposes that increasing awareness of mental illness may lead some people to diagnose themselves inaccurately when they are experiencing relatively mild or transient problems.</p> <p>Foulkes’ hypothesis implies that some people develop overly broad concepts of mental illness. Our research supports this view. In a new study, <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666560324000318?via%3Dihub">we show</a> that concepts of mental illness have broadened in recent years – a phenomenon we call “<a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1047840X.2016.1082418">concept creep</a>” – and that <a href="https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12888-023-05152-6">people differ</a> in the breadth of their concepts of mental illness.</p> <h2>Why do people self-diagnose mental illnesses?</h2> <p>In our new <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssmmh.2024.100326">study</a>, we examined whether people with broad concepts of mental illness are, in fact, more likely to self-diagnose.</p> <p>We defined self-diagnosis as a person’s belief they have an illness, whether or not they have received the diagnosis from a professional. We assessed people as having a “broad concept of mental illness” if they judged a wide variety of experiences and behaviours to be disorders, including relatively mild conditions.</p> <p>We asked a nationally representative sample of 474 American adults if they believed they had a mental disorder and if they had received a diagnosis from a health professional. We also asked about other possible contributing factors and demographics.</p> <p>Mental illness was common in our sample: 42% reported they had a current self-diagnosed condition, a majority of whom had received it from a health professional.</p> <p>Unsurprisingly, the strongest predictor of reporting a diagnosis was experiencing relatively severe distress.</p> <p>The second most important factor after distress was having a broad concept of mental illness. When their levels of distress were the same, people with broad concepts were substantially more likely to report a current diagnosis.</p> <p>The graph below illustrates this effect. It divides the sample by levels of distress and shows the proportion of people at each level who report a current diagnosis. People with broad concepts of mental illness (the highest quarter of the sample) are represented by the dark blue line. People with narrow concepts of mental illness (the lowest quarter of the sample) are represented by the light blue line. People with broad concepts were much more likely to report having a mental illness, especially when their distress was relatively high.</p> <p>People with greater mental health literacy and less stigmatising attitudes were also more likely to report a diagnosis.</p> <p>Two interesting further findings emerged from our study. People who self-diagnosed but had not received a professional diagnosis tended to have broader illness concepts than those who had.</p> <p>In addition, younger and politically progressive people were more likely to report a diagnosis, consistent with some <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666560321000438">previous research</a>, and held broader concepts of mental illness. Their tendency to hold these more expansive concepts partially explained their higher rates of diagnosis.</p> <h2>Why does it matter?</h2> <p>Our findings support the idea that expansive concepts of mental illness promote self-diagnosis and may thereby increase the apparent prevalence of mental ill health. People who have a lower threshold for defining distress as a disorder are more likely to identify themselves as having a mental illness.</p> <p>Our findings do not directly show that people with broad concepts over-diagnose or those with narrow concepts under-diagnose. Nor do they prove that having broad concepts <em>causes</em> self-diagnosis or results in <em>actual</em> increases in mental illness. Nevertheless, the findings raise important concerns.</p> <p>First, they suggest that rising mental health awareness may <a href="https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg25934573-900-why-being-more-open-about-mental-health-could-be-making-us-feel-worse/">come at a cost</a>. In addition to boosting mental health literacy it may increase the likelihood of people incorrectly identifying their problems as pathologies.</p> <p>Inappropriate self-diagnosis can have adverse effects. Diagnostic labels may become identity-defining and self-limiting, as people come to believe their problems are enduring, <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165032724002489?via%3Dihub">hard-to-control</a> aspects of who they are.</p> <p>Second, unwarranted self-diagnosis may lead people experiencing relatively mild levels of distress to seek help that is unnecessary, inappropriate and ineffective. Recent <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37844607/">Australian research</a> found people with relatively mild distress who received psychotherapy worsened more often than they improved.</p> <p>Third, these effects may be particularly problematic for young people. They are most liable to hold broad concepts of mental illness, in part due to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010440X22000682?via%3Dihub">social media</a> <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10810730.2023.2235563">consumption</a>, and they experience mental ill health at relatively high and rising rates. Whether expansive concepts of illness play a role in the youth mental health crisis remains to be seen.</p> <p>Ongoing cultural shifts are fostering increasingly expansive definitions of mental illness. These shifts are likely to have mixed blessings. By normalising mental illness they may help to remove its stigma. However, by pathologising some forms of everyday distress, they may have an unintended downside.</p> <p>As we wrestle with the mental health crisis, it is crucial we find ways to increase awareness of mental ill health without inadvertently inflating it.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/231687/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jesse-tse-1429151">Jesse Tse</a>, PhD Candidate at Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nick-haslam-10182">Nick Haslam</a>, Professor of Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/do-you-have-a-mental-illness-why-some-people-answer-yes-even-if-they-havent-been-diagnosed-231687">original article</a>.</em></p>

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To-do list got you down? Understanding the psychology of goals can help tick things off – and keep you on track

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kim-m-caudwell-1258935">Kim M Caudwell</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/charles-darwin-university-1066">Charles Darwin University</a></em></p> <p>It feels like we are living in busy times.</p> <p>According to the <a href="https://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/topics/work-life-balance/">OECD Better Life Index</a>, 12.5% of Australians report working at least 50 hours a week, higher than the OECD average. Many Australians are also <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-08-03/multiple-job-holders-hit-record-high-abs/102679190">working more than one job to buffer against cost-of-living pressures</a>.</p> <p>Psychology has long been interested in our goals – our mental representations of desirable outcomes. Much of this research is on how we form, pursue and attain goals, plus how goals make us feel. Across studies, we see a consistent pattern of <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10902-013-9493-0#Sec34">successful goal pursuit and wellbeing</a>. So, having time to work toward our goals is important.</p> <p>With this in mind, what is the best way to get things done – and how can we get better at achieving our goals, especially when we feel time poor?</p> <h2>Make a list</h2> <p>Most of us approach multiple goals with the age-old “to-do” list. First, you write down everything you need to do. Then you “check” or tick things off as you do them.</p> <p>One reason to-do lists are useful is because we are more likely to remember things we haven’t completed, rather than things we have. This is known as the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-F1U4bV2m8">Zeigarnik effect</a>.</p> <p>While to-do lists are easy to write, they don’t always work. There are however <a href="https://hbr.org/2021/01/i-tried-4-to-do-list-methods-heres-what-worked">various approaches for to-do lists</a> that may improve their effectiveness.</p> <p>Another thing to consider is the wide range of apps, tools and platforms that can make tasks more fun and outsource mental load. Adding elements of game play like point scoring or competition – called “<a href="https://theconversation.com/how-gamification-could-revolutionise-creative-thinking-in-the-workplace-122852">gamification</a>” – can <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563221002867">help people work toward goals in educational and work settings</a>. Similarly, app-based reminders can help people reach <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/2047487320905717">physical rehabilitation goals and form good exercise habits</a>.</p> <h2>Finding your why</h2> <p>Researchers have focused a lot on the psychology of <em>why</em> people pursue goals – and how this affects their approach to tasks.</p> <p>For example, some people want to complete a university degree because they want to get a job. Others may be more interested in developing skills or knowledge. In both cases, there is a desired outcome – albeit with differing reasons.</p> <p>Our goals can be differentiated by who or what is driving them. Goals that feel like our own, and for which we experience a sense of intrinsic motivation, are known as “self-concordant”. These goals represent enduring personal interests, are aligned with values and are positively <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12144-020-01156-7">linked to wellbeing</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10648-006-9012-5">Goal orientation theory</a> offers a similar perspective. Using the same example, you may study so you score well on a test (a performance goal) or because you want to be sure you develop your knowledge (a mastery goal). Mastery goals tend to lead to <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10869-010-9201-6">better results and self-regulation</a>.</p> <h2>Juggling goals – 4 to-do tips</h2> <p>So, what happens when we have multiple – perhaps even competing – goals, or goals that aren’t so enjoyable? We might want to finish writing a report or assignment, then read a few chapters of a textbook – but also go to the gym and binge a few episodes of our favourite TV show.</p> <p>In such scenarios, psychological science offers some insights into how we might stay task-focused, and on track to tick more items off our to-do list.</p> <p><strong>1. Beware the <a href="https://www.pwc.pl/en/articles/planning-fallacy-part-I-cognitive-traps.html">planning fallacy</a>.</strong> This happens when we underestimate the amount of resources (such as time) it will take to reach a goal. As writer and religious thinker William Penn put it: “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst”. Think through the all the steps and time required to complete your goal.</p> <p><strong>2. Monitor your progress.</strong> <a href="https://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/91437/8/3_PDFsam_Does%20monitoring%20goal.pdf">Incorporating goal monitoring</a> into an activity can boost progress. And reviewing your estimations and expectations against your actual times and achievements can be used to calculate a “<a href="https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/estimating-time-for-tasks">fudge ratio</a>” to aid future planning. For instance, you could multiply your expected time on tasks by 1.5 to help buffer against the planning fallacy.</p> <p><strong>3. Focus on mastery.</strong> Self-concordant goals and tasks feel easier, and their underlying tasks may be <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0146167215575730">less subject to forgetting</a>. Tedious but necessary goals (such as doing the dishes or filling out forms) are less intrinsically motivating. This means <a href="https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/EBHRM-04-2014-0013/full/html#idm45933122746592">planning, reminders and support become more important to goal progress</a>.</p> <p><strong>4. Plan for derailments.</strong> People vary in their ability to plan and might forget to take a goal-directed action at an appropriate time (this could be one reason the <a href="https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/the-streaming-services-winning-the-battle-for-attention-and-the-feature-australians-want/9crrpafgd">average Australian streams 27 hours of video each week</a>). <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10463283.2024.2334563">Implementation intentions</a> bring our attention back toward our goals by linking them to an environmental marker. These simple “if-then” plans are shown to <a href="https://cancercontrol.cancer.gov/brp/research/constructs/implementation-intentions#:%7E:text=Implementation%20intentions%20are%20formed%20for,might%20otherwise%20undermine%20goal%20striving.">help overcome issues with self-regulation</a>. Such a statement might be “if I see the ‘next episode’ icon appear, I will get up and turn off the TV so I can read a chapter of my textbook”.</p> <p>With time being frustratingly finite, it is inevitable we will run out of time to do all of the things on our to-do list. Finding an approach that works for us will take time and effort. But it’s probably a worthy goal in itself.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/230399/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kim-m-caudwell-1258935">Kim M Caudwell</a>, Senior Lecturer - Psychology | Chair, Researchers in Behavioural Addictions, Alcohol and Drugs (BAAD), <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/charles-darwin-university-1066">Charles Darwin University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-do-list-got-you-down-understanding-the-psychology-of-goals-can-help-tick-things-off-and-keep-you-on-track-230399">original article</a>.</em></p>

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What’s the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia?

<div class="theconversation-article-body"> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nikki-anne-wilson-342631">Nikki-Anne Wilson</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p>Changes in thinking and memory as we age can occur for a variety of reasons. These changes are <a href="https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/memory-loss-and-forgetfulness/memory-problems-forgetfulness-and-aging#changes">not always cause for concern</a>. But when they begin to disrupt daily life, it could indicate the first signs of dementia.</p> <p>Another term that can crop up when we’re talking about dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, or Alzheimer’s for short.</p> <p>So what’s the difference?</p> <h2>What is dementia?</h2> <p>Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of syndromes that result in changes in memory, thinking and/or behaviour due to degeneration in the brain.</p> <p>To meet the <a href="https://alz-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1016/j.jalz.2011.03.005">criteria</a> for dementia these changes must be sufficiently pronounced to interfere with usual activities and are present in at least two different aspects of thinking or memory.</p> <p>For example, someone might have trouble remembering to pay bills and become lost in previously familiar areas.</p> <p>It’s less-well known that dementia can also occur in <a href="https://www.childhooddementia.org/what-is-childhood-dementia">children</a>. This is due to progressive brain damage associated with more than 100 rare genetic disorders. This can result in similar cognitive changes as we see in adults.</p> <h2>So what’s Alzheimer’s then?</h2> <p><a href="https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers">Alzheimer’s</a> is the most common type of dementia, accounting for <a href="https://alz-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/alz.12068">about 60-80%</a> of cases.</p> <p>So it’s not surprising many people use the terms dementia and Alzheimer’s interchangeably.</p> <p>Changes in memory are the most common sign of Alzheimer’s and it’s what the public <a href="https://alzres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13195-023-01219-4">most often</a> associates with it. For instance, someone with Alzheimer’s may have trouble recalling recent events or keeping track of what day or month it is.</p> <p>We still don’t know exactly what <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1134/s002689332104004x">causes Alzheimer’s</a>. However, we do know it is associated with a build-up in the brain of two types of protein called <a href="https://www.dementiasplatform.uk/news-and-media/blog/amyloid-and-tau-the-proteins-involved-in-dementia">amyloid-β and tau</a>.</p> <p>While we all have some amyloid-β, when too much builds up in the brain it clumps together, forming plaques in the spaces between cells. These plaques cause damage (inflammation) to surrounding brain cells and leads to disruption in <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6468450/">tau</a>. Tau forms part of the structure of brain cells but in Alzheimer’s tau proteins become “tangled”. This is toxic to the cells, causing them to die. A <a href="https://content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-alzheimers-disease/jad180583">feedback loop</a> is then thought to occur, triggering production of more amyloid-β and more abnormal tau, perpetuating damage to brain cells.</p> <p>Alzheimer’s can also occur with other forms of dementia, such as <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vascular-dementia/symptoms-causes/syc-20378793">vascular dementia</a>. This combination is the most common example of a <a href="https://www.dementiauk.org/information-and-support/types-of-dementia/mixed-dementia/">mixed dementia</a>.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/592838/original/file-20240508-18-6msd4.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/592838/original/file-20240508-18-6msd4.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/592838/original/file-20240508-18-6msd4.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=456&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/592838/original/file-20240508-18-6msd4.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=456&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/592838/original/file-20240508-18-6msd4.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=456&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/592838/original/file-20240508-18-6msd4.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=573&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/592838/original/file-20240508-18-6msd4.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=573&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/592838/original/file-20240508-18-6msd4.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=573&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="" /></a><figcaption></figcaption></figure> <h2>Vascular dementia</h2> <p>The second most common type of dementia is <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vascular-dementia/symptoms-causes/syc-20378793">vascular dementia</a>. This results from disrupted blood flow to the brain.</p> <p>Because the changes in blood flow can occur throughout the brain, signs of vascular dementia can be more varied than the memory changes typically seen in Alzheimer’s.</p> <p>For example, vascular dementia may present as general confusion, slowed thinking, or difficulty organising thoughts and actions.</p> <p>Your <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vascular-dementia/symptoms-causes/syc-20378793">risk of vascular dementia</a> is greater if you have heart disease or high blood pressure.</p> <h2>Frontotemporal dementia</h2> <p>Some people may not realise that dementia can also affect behaviour and/or language. We see this in different forms of frontotemporal dementia.</p> <p>The behavioural variant of <a href="https://neuro.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.neuropsych.20090238#:%7E:text=The%20behavioral%20variant%20of%20frontotemporal,often%20delayed%20for%20several%20years.">frontotemporal dementia</a> is the second most common form (after Alzheimer’s disease) of <a href="https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/younger-onset-dementia">younger onset dementia</a> (dementia in people under 65).</p> <p>People living with this may have difficulties in interpreting and appropriately responding to social situations. For example, they may make uncharacteristically rude or offensive comments or invade people’s personal space.</p> <p><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/semantic-dementia">Semantic dementia</a> is also a type of frontotemporal dementia and results in difficulty with understanding the meaning of words and naming everyday objects.</p> <h2>Dementia with Lewy bodies</h2> <p><a href="https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia/types-of-dementia/dementia-with-lewy-bodies">Dementia with Lewy bodies</a> results from dysregulation of a different type of protein known as α-synuclein. We often see this in people with Parkinson’s disease.</p> <p>So people with this type of dementia may have altered movement, such as a stooped posture, shuffling walk, and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7428504/">changes in handwriting</a>. Other symptoms include changes in alertness, visual hallucinations and significant <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6029467/">disruption to sleep</a>.</p> <h2>Do I have dementia and if so, which type?</h2> <p>If you or someone close to you is concerned, the first thing to do is to <a href="https://cdpc.sydney.edu.au/research/clinical-guidelines-for-dementia/">speak to your GP</a>. They will likely ask you some questions about your medical history and what changes you have noticed.</p> <p>Sometimes it might not be clear if you have dementia when you first speak to your doctor. They may suggest you watch for changes or they may refer you to a specialist for <a href="https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/alzheimers-and-dementia/what-dementia-symptoms-types-and-diagnosis#diagnosis">further tests</a>.</p> <p>There is no single test to clearly show if you have dementia, or the type of dementia. A diagnosis comes after multiple tests, including brain scans, tests of memory and thinking, and consideration of how these changes impact your daily life.</p> <p>Not knowing what is happening can be a challenging time so it is important to speak to someone about how you are feeling or to reach out to <a href="https://www.dementia.org.au/get-support/national-dementia-helpline">support services</a>.</p> <h2>Dementia is diverse</h2> <p>As well as the different forms of dementia, everyone experiences dementia in different ways. For example, the speed dementia progresses varies a lot from person to person. Some people will continue to <a href="https://livingwellwithdementia.org.au">live well with dementia</a> for some time while others may decline more quickly.</p> <p>There is still significant <a href="https://academic.oup.com/gerontologist/article-abstract/64/5/gnad130/7281753">stigma</a> surrounding dementia. So by learning more about the various types of dementia and understanding differences in how dementia progresses we can all do our part to create a more <a href="https://www.dementiafriendly.org.au/">dementia-friendly community</a>.</p> <hr /> <p><em>The <a href="https://www.dementia.org.au/get-support/national-dementia-helpline">National Dementia Helpline</a> (1800 100 500) provides information and support for people living with dementia and their carers. To learn more about dementia, you can take this <a href="https://www.utas.edu.au/wicking/understanding-dementia">free online course</a>.</em><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/225271/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nikki-anne-wilson-342631">Nikki-Anne Wilson</a>, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/whats-the-difference-between-alzheimers-and-dementia-225271">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

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Boomers vs millennials? Free yourself from the phoney generation wars

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/bobby-duffy-98570">Bobby Duffy</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/kings-college-london-1196">King's College London</a></em></p> <p>Generational thinking is a big idea that’s been horribly corrupted and devalued by endless myths and stereotypes. These clichés have fuelled fake battles between “snowflake” millennials and “selfish” baby boomers, with younger generations facing a “war on woke” and older generations accused of “stealing” the future from the young.</p> <p>As I argue in my book, <a href="https://atlantic-books.co.uk/book/generations/">Generations</a>, this is a real shame. A more careful understanding of what’s really different between generations is one of the best tools we have to understand change – and predict the future.</p> <p>Some of the great names in sociology and philosophy saw understanding generational change as central to understanding society overall. <a href="http://dhspriory.org/kenny/PhilTexts/Comte/Philosophy2.pdf">Auguste Comte</a>, for example, identified the generation as a key factor in “the basic speed of human development”.</p> <p>He argued that “we should not hide the fact that our social progress rests essentially upon death; which is to say that the successive steps of humanity necessarily require a continuous renovation … from one generation to the next”. We humans get set in our ways once we’re past our formative years, and we need the constant injection of new participants to keep society moving forward.</p> <p>Understanding whether, and how, generations are different is vital to understanding society. The balance between generations is constantly shifting, as older cohorts die out and are replaced by new entrants. If younger generations truly do have different attitudes or behaviours to older generations, this will reshape society, and we can, to some extent, predict how it will develop if we can identify those differences.</p> <p>But in place of this big thinking, today we get clickbait headlines and bad research on millennials “<a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/millennials-hate-napkins-2016-3?r=US&amp;IR=T">killing the napkin industry</a>” or on how baby boomers have “<a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/06/boomers-are-blame-aging-america/592336/">ruined everything</a>”. We’ve fallen a long way.</p> <h2>Myth busting</h2> <p>To see the true value of generational thinking, we need to identify and discard the many myths. For example, as I outline in the book, gen Z and millennials are not lazy at work or disloyal to their employers. They’re also no more materialistic than previous generations of young: a focus on being rich is something we tend to grow out of.</p> <p>Old people are not uncaring or unwilling to act on climate change: in fact, they are more likely than young people to boycott products for social purpose reasons.</p> <p>And our current generation of young are not a particularly unusual group of “culture warriors”. Young people are always at the leading edge of change in cultural norms, around race, immigration, sexuality and gender equality. The issues have changed, but the gap between young and old is not greater now than in the past.</p> <p>Meanwhile, there are real, and vitally important, generational differences hidden in this mess. To see them, we need to separate the three effects that explain all change in societies. Some patterns are simple “lifecycle effects”, where attitudes and behaviours are to do with our age, not which generation we are born into. Some are “period effects” – where everyone is affected, such as in a war, economic crisis or a pandemic.</p> <p>And finally, there are “cohort effects”, which is where a new generation is different from others at the same age, and they stay different. It’s impossible to entirely separate these distinct forces, but we can often get some way towards it – and when we do, we can predict the future in a much more meaningful way.</p> <p>There are many real generational differences, in vitally important areas of life. For example, the probability of you owning your own home is hugely affected by when you were born. Millennials are around half as likely to be a homeowner than generations born only a couple of decades earlier.</p> <p>There is also a real cohort effect in experience of mental health disorders, particularly among recent generations of young women. Our relationship with alcohol and likelihood of smoking is also tied to our cohort, with huge generational declines in very regular drinking and smoking. Each of these point to different futures, from increased strain on mental health services to declining alcohol sales.</p> <p>But lifecycle and period effects are vitally important too. For example, there is truth in the idea that we grow more conservative as we age. One analysis suggests that this ageing effect is worth around <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0261379413000875">0.35% to the Conservatives each year</a>, which may not sound like a lot, but is very valuable over the course of a political lifetime.</p> <p>And, of course, the pandemic provides a very powerful example of how period effects can dramatically change things for us all.</p> <h2>Reaching beyond the avocado</h2> <p>When there is such richness in the realities, why are there so many myths? It’s partly down to bad marketing and workplace research – that is, people jumping on the generation bandwagon to get media coverage for their products or to sell consultancy to businesses on how to engage young employees.</p> <p>This has become its own mini-industry. In 2015, US companies spent up to US$70 million (£51 million) on this sort of “advice” <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/helping-bosses-decode-millennialsfor-20-000-an-hour-1463505666">according to the Wall Street Journal</a>, with some experts making as much as US$20,000 an hour. Over 400 LinkedIn users now describe themselves solely as a “millennial expert” or “millennial consultant”.</p> <p>Campaigners and politicians also play to these imagined differences. Our increasing focus on “<a href="https://www.kcl.ac.uk/policy-institute/assets/culture-wars-in-the-uk.pdf">culture wars</a>” often involves picking out particular incidents in universities, such as the <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-45717841">banning of clapping</a> at events or the <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-57409743">removal of a portrait of the Queen</a> to exaggerate how culturally different young people today are.</p> <p>Maybe less obviously, politicians such as former US President Barack Obama repeatedly lionise coming generations as more focused on equality, when the evidence shows they’re often not that different. These assertions are not only wrong, but create false expectations and divides.</p> <p>Some have had enough, calling on the Pew Research Center in the US, which has been a champion of generational groups, to <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/07/07/generation-labels-mean-nothing-retire-them/&amp;data=04%257C01%257C">stop conducting this type of analysis</a>. I think that misses the point: it’s how it’s applied rather than the idea of generations that’s wrong.</p> <p>We should defend the big idea and call out the myths, not abandon the field to the “millennial consultants”.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/167138/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/bobby-duffy-98570">Bobby Duffy</a>, Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Policy Institute, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/kings-college-london-1196">King's College London</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/boomers-vs-millennials-free-yourself-from-the-phoney-generation-wars-167138">original article</a>.</em></p>

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The voice in your head may help you recall and process words. But what if you don’t have one?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/derek-arnold-106381">Derek Arnold</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a></em></p> <p>Can you imagine hearing yourself speak? A voice inside your head – perhaps reciting a shopping list or a phone number? What would life be like if you couldn’t?</p> <p>Some people, including me, cannot have imagined visual experiences. We cannot close our eyes and conjure an experience of seeing a loved one’s face, or imagine our lounge room layout – to consider if a new piece of furniture might fit in it. This is called “<a href="https://theconversation.com/a-blind-and-deaf-mind-what-its-like-to-have-no-visual-imagination-or-inner-voice-226134">aphantasia</a>”, from a Greek phrase where the “a” means without, and “phantasia” refers to an image. Colloquially, people like myself are often referred to as having a “blind mind”.</p> <p>While most attention has been given to the inability to have imagined visual sensations, aphantasics can lack other imagined experiences. We might be unable to experience imagined tastes or smells. Some people cannot imagine hearing themselves speak.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www.sciencealert.com/we-used-to-think-everybody-heard-a-voice-inside-their-heads-but-we-were-wrong">recent study</a> has advanced our understanding of people who cannot imagine hearing their own internal monologue. Importantly, the authors have identified some tasks that such people are more likely to find challenging.</p> <h2>What the study found</h2> <p>Researchers at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the United States <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/09567976241243004">recruited 93 volunteers</a>. They included 46 adults who reported low levels of inner speech and 47 who reported high levels.</p> <p>Both groups were given challenging tasks: judging if the names of objects they had seen would rhyme and recalling words. The group without an inner monologue performed worse. But differences disappeared when everyone could say words aloud.</p> <p>Importantly, people who reported less inner speech were not worse at all tasks. They could recall similar numbers of words when the words had a different appearance to one another. This negates any suggestion that aphants (people with aphantasia) simply weren’t trying or were less capable.</p> <h2>A welcome validation</h2> <p>The study provides some welcome evidence for the lived experiences of some aphants, who are still often told their experiences are not different, but rather that they cannot describe their imagined experiences. Some people feel anxiety when they realise other people can have imagined experiences that they cannot. These feelings may be deepened when others assert they are merely confused or inarticulate.</p> <p>In my own <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/psychology/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2024.1374349/full">aphantasia research</a> I have often quizzed crowds of people on their capacity to have imagined experiences.</p> <p>Questions about the capacity to have imagined visual or audio sensations tend to be excitedly endorsed by a vast majority, but questions about imagined experiences of taste or smell seem to cause more confusion. Some people are adamant they can do this, including a colleague who says he can imagine what combinations of ingredients will taste like when cooked together. But other responses suggest subtypes of aphantasia may prove to be more common than we realise.</p> <p>The authors of the recent study suggest the inability to imagine hearing yourself speak should be referred to as “anendophasia”, meaning without inner speech. Other authors had suggested <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8551557/">anauralia</a> (meaning without auditory imagery). Still other researchers have referred to all types of imagined sensation as being different types of “imagery”.</p> <p>Having <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0010945222000417">consistent names</a> is important. It can help scientists “talk” to one another to compare findings. If different authors use different names, important evidence can be missed.</p> <h2>We have more than 5 senses</h2> <p>Debate continues about how many senses humans have, but some scientists reasonably argue for a <a href="https://www.sensorytrust.org.uk/blog/how-many-senses-do-we-have#:%7E:text=Because%20there%20is%20some%20overlap,sensation%20of%20hunger%20or%20thirst.">number greater than 20</a>.</p> <p>In addition to the five senses of sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing, lesser known senses include thermoception (our sense of heat) and proprioception (awareness of the positions of our body parts). Thanks to proprioception, most of us can close our eyes and touch the tip of our index finger to our nose. Thanks to our vestibular sense, we typically have a good idea of which way is up and can maintain balance.</p> <p>It may be tempting to give a new name to each inability to have a given type of imagined sensation. But this could lead to confusion. Another approach would be to adapt phrases that are already widely used. People who are unable to have imagined sensations commonly refer to ourselves as “aphants”. This could be adapted with a prefix, such as “audio aphant”. Time will tell which approach is adopted by most researchers.</p> <h2>Why we should keep investigating</h2> <p>Regardless of the names we use, the study of multiple types of inability to have an imagined sensation is important. These investigations could reveal the essential processes in human brains that bring about a conscious experience of an imagined sensation.</p> <p>In time, this will not only lead to a better understanding of the diversity of humans, but may help uncover how human brains can create any conscious sensation. This question – how and where our conscious feelings are generated – remains one of the great mysteries of science.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/230973/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/derek-arnold-106381">Derek Arnold</a>, Professor, School of Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-voice-in-your-head-may-help-you-recall-and-process-words-but-what-if-you-dont-have-one-230973">original article</a>.</em></p>

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What’s the difference between shyness and social anxiety?

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kayla-steele-1042011">Kayla Steele</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jill-newby-193454">Jill Newby</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p>The terms “shyness” and “social anxiety” are often used interchangeably because they both involve feeling uncomfortable in social situations.</p> <p>However, <a href="https://theconversation.com/shyness-isnt-nice-but-shyness-shouldnt-stop-you-28010">feeling shy</a>, or having a shy personality, is not the same as experiencing <a href="https://theconversation.com/explainer-what-is-social-anxiety-disorder-36601">social anxiety</a> (short for “social anxiety disorder”).</p> <p>Here are some of the similarities and differences, and what the distinction means.</p> <h2>How are they similar?</h2> <p>It can be normal to feel nervous or even stressed in new social situations or when interacting with new people. And everyone differs in how comfortable they feel when interacting with others.</p> <p>For people who are shy or socially anxious, social situations can be very uncomfortable, stressful or even threatening. There can be a strong desire to avoid these situations.</p> <p>People who are shy or socially anxious may <a href="https://theconversation.com/paralysed-with-fear-why-do-we-freeze-when-frightened-60543">respond with</a> “flight” (by withdrawing from the situation or avoiding it entirely), “freeze” (by detaching themselves or feeling disconnected from their body), or “<a href="https://theconversation.com/what-is-fawning-how-is-it-related-to-trauma-and-the-fight-or-flight-response-205024">fawn</a>” (by trying to appease or placate others).</p> <p>A complex interaction of biological and environmental factors is also thought to influence the development of shyness and social anxiety.</p> <p>For example, both <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/s13415-021-00916-7">shy children</a> and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5428215/">adults with social anxiety</a> have neural circuits that respond strongly to stressful social situations, such as being excluded or left out.</p> <p>People who are shy or socially anxious commonly report physical symptoms of stress in certain situations, or even when anticipating them. These include sweating, blushing, trembling, an increased heart rate or hyperventilation.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/592825/original/file-20240508-22-heev7f.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/592825/original/file-20240508-22-heev7f.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/592825/original/file-20240508-22-heev7f.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=456&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/592825/original/file-20240508-22-heev7f.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=456&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/592825/original/file-20240508-22-heev7f.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=456&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/592825/original/file-20240508-22-heev7f.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=573&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/592825/original/file-20240508-22-heev7f.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=573&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/592825/original/file-20240508-22-heev7f.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=573&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="" /></a><figcaption></figcaption></figure> <h2>How are they different?</h2> <p>Social anxiety is a diagnosable mental health condition and is an example of an anxiety disorder.</p> <p>For people who struggle with social anxiety, social situations – including social interactions, being observed and performing in front of others – trigger intense fear or anxiety about being judged, criticised or rejected.</p> <p>To be diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, social anxiety needs to be persistent (lasting more than six months) and have a significant negative impact on important areas of life such as work, school, relationships, and identity or sense of self.</p> <p>Many adults with social anxiety report feeling shy, timid and lacking in confidence when they were a child. However, not all shy children go on to develop social anxiety. Also, feeling shy does not necessarily mean a person meets the criteria for social anxiety disorder.</p> <p>People vary in how shy or outgoing they are, depending on where they are, who they are with and how comfortable they feel in the situation. This is particularly true for children, who sometimes appear reserved and shy with strangers and peers, and outgoing with known and trusted adults.</p> <p>Individual differences in temperament, personality traits, early childhood experiences, family upbringing and environment, and parenting style, can also influence the extent to which people feel shy across social situations.</p> <p>However, people with social anxiety have overwhelming fears about embarrassing themselves or being negatively judged by others; they experience these fears consistently and across multiple social situations.</p> <p>The intensity of this fear or anxiety often leads people to avoid situations. If avoiding a situation is not possible, they may engage in safety behaviours, such as looking at their phone, wearing sunglasses or rehearsing conversation topics.</p> <p>The effect social anxiety can have on a person’s life can be far-reaching. It may include low self-esteem, breakdown of friendships or romantic relationships, difficulties pursuing and progressing in a career, and dropping out of study.</p> <p>The impact this has on a person’s ability to lead a meaningful and fulfilling life, and the distress this causes, differentiates social anxiety from shyness.</p> <p>Children can show similar signs or symptoms of social anxiety to adults. But they may also feel upset and teary, irritable, have temper tantrums, cling to their parents, or <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-is-selective-mutism-and-is-it-a-lifelong-condition-219930">refuse to speak</a> in certain situations.</p> <p>If left untreated, social anxiety can set children and young people up for a future of missed opportunities, so early intervention is key. With professional and <a href="https://theconversation.com/back-to-school-blues-how-to-help-your-child-with-shyness-90228">parental support</a>, patience and guidance, children can be taught <a href="https://theconversation.com/7-tips-to-help-kids-feeling-anxious-about-going-back-to-school-139207">strategies</a> to overcome social anxiety.</p> <h2>Why does the distinction matter?</h2> <p>Social anxiety disorder is a mental health condition that <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s12916-017-0889-2?utm_source=getftr&amp;utm_medium=getftr&amp;utm_campaign=getftr_pilot">persists</a> for people who do not receive adequate support or treatment.</p> <p>Without treatment, it can lead to <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22306132/">difficulties</a> in education and at work, and in developing meaningful relationships.</p> <p>Receiving a diagnosis of social anxiety disorder can be validating for some people as it recognises the level of distress and that its impact is more intense than shyness.</p> <p>A diagnosis can also be an important first step in accessing appropriate, evidence-based treatment.</p> <p>Different people have different support needs. However, <a href="https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg159/chapter/Recommendations">clinical practice guidelines</a> recommend cognitive-behavioural therapy (a kind of psychological therapy that teaches people practical coping skills). This is often used with <a href="https://theconversation.com/explainer-what-is-exposure-therapy-and-how-can-it-treat-social-anxiety-64483#:%7E:text=Exposure%20therapy%20is%20where%20people,addresses%20the%20underlying%20unhelpful%20thoughts.">exposure therapy</a> (a kind of psychological therapy that helps people face their fears by breaking them down into a series of step-by-step activities). This combination is effective <a href="https://theconversation.com/explainer-what-is-exposure-therapy-and-how-can-it-treat-social-anxiety-64483#:%7E:text=Exposure%20therapy%20is%20where%20people,addresses%20the%20underlying%20unhelpful%20thoughts.">in-person</a>, <a href="https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Computer-therapy-for-the-anxiety-and-depression-is-Andrews-Basu/25e9ee98a1af8d2780ac3e1f687ebc40ebd1b47c">online</a> and in <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34534800/">brief treatments</a>.</p> <h2>For more support or further reading</h2> <p>Online resources about social anxiety include:</p> <ul> <li> <p>This Way Up’s <a href="https://thiswayup.org.au/programs/social-anxiety-program/">online program</a> for managing excessive shyness and fear of social situations</p> </li> <li> <p>Beyond Blue’s <a href="https://www.beyondblue.org.au/mental-health/anxiety/types-of-anxiety/social-anxiety-disorder">resources</a> on social anxiety</p> </li> <li> <p>a guide to <a href="https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/Looking-After-Yourself/Social-Anxiety">looking after yourself</a> if you have social anxiety, from the Western Australian health department</p> </li> <li> <p>social anxiety <a href="https://brave4you.psy.uq.edu.au/">online program for children and teens</a> from the University of Queensland</p> </li> <li> <p>inroads, a <a href="https://inroads.org.au/">self-guided online program</a> for young adults who drink alcohol to manage their anxiety.</p> </li> </ul> <hr /> <p><em>We thank the Black Dog Institute <a href="https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/about/who-we-are/lived-experience/">Lived Experience Advisory Network</a> members for providing feedback and input for this article and our research.</em><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/225669/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kayla-steele-1042011">Kayla Steele</a>, Postdoctoral research fellow and clinical psychologist, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jill-newby-193454">Jill Newby</a>, Professor, NHMRC Emerging Leader &amp; Clinical Psychologist, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/whats-the-difference-between-shyness-and-social-anxiety-225669">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

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Want to reduce your dementia risk? Eat these 4 foods, says new study

<p>If you are what you eat, this might make you hungrier for foods that are bright in every sense. Research has shown that living, vibrant foods can slow down aging at a cellular level; while fruit and vegetables in particular have been associated with lower incidence of cognitive decline as individuals age.</p> <p>However, research has been relatively lacking on just how much of these brain-healthy foods you really need and which fruit and vegetables are best for the job.</p> <p>In collaboration with public health experts at Harvard University, medical researchers at China’s Zhejiang University School of Medicine conducted a meta-analysis that’s slated to be published in the June 2024 issue of <em>The Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging</em>. They combined data from two large-scale population-representative studies that analysed the diets and cognitive function of more than 10,000 participants ages 55 and older from China and the US.</p> <h2>What daily diets revealed</h2> <p>The data included diet questionnaires that honed in on the average of participants’ total daily intake of several different types of foods, including fruit and vegetables, and also broke them down into sub-types like green leafy vegetables and berries. Over a period of five years, the participants also took part in activities designed to assess their cognitive function and the average rate of cognitive decline.</p> <p>Overall, participants who included the most fruit and vegetables in their daily diets performed best on the brain tests and maintained those results over time. This suggested that both fruit and vegetables had protective elements that slowed cognitive decline.</p> <h2>Vegetables that help protect cognition</h2> <p>Interestingly, certain types of vegetables appeared to be more beneficial than others—say the researchers: “Our findings support the potential beneficial roles of VF, especially cruciferous vegetables, green leafy vegetables, and red and yellow vegetables, in maintaining cognitive function and slowing cognitive decline in middle-aged and older adults.”</p> <p>The researchers pointed to several reasons these particular vegetables might have shown a substantial impact, including anti-inflammatory and antioxidation nutrients like flavonoids and various vitamins or even gut improvements that have been shown to help improve or protect cognition.</p> <p>While beans didn’t figure prominently in both studies, they showed a protective element in the US study, so they are also worth keeping on your plate. (Beans are also thought to be one of the top foods for longevity.)</p> <h2>Fruit that pack a punch</h2> <p>As for fruit, while some didn’t show as much of a protective effect across the board, berries and apples are two examples of fruit that experts have previously said provide major polyphenol and antioxidant effect.</p> <p>Participants whose brains maintained performance were shown to have eaten three or more servings of vegetables and two or more servings of fruit per day. This is on par with the five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit recommended we eat every day.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.co.nz/healthsmart/want-to-reduce-your-dementia-risk-eat-these-4-foods-says-new-study" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

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5 reasons art therapy is great for your mental health as you age

<p><span style="background: white;">We know how important it is to look after our<strong> </strong></span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/servicesandsupport/healthy-and-active-ageing"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">physical health</span></strong></a><span style="background: white;"> as we age, but our mental health is equally important. </span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://aifs.gov.au/resources/short-articles/normalising-mental-illness-older-adults-barrier-care"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">Studies have shown</span></strong></a><strong><span style="background: white;"> </span></strong><span style="background: white;">that besides the immediate impact on wellbeing, older people with untreated mental ill health are at risk of poorer overall health, increased hospital admissions, and an earlier transition into aged care.</span></p> <p><span style="background: white;">Art therapy is an excellent way to boost our mental wellbeing. In a nutshell, this type of therapy is when visual art, such as drawing, sculpting, or collage, is used in a<strong> </strong></span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.rtor.org/2018/07/10/benefits-of-art-therapy/"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">therapeutic context</span></strong></a><span style="background: white;">. And don’t be put off if you haven’t picked up a paintbrush since you were a kid. Art therapy is not about creating works of beauty but about the process. It’s a completely </span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://cata.org.au/faqs-myth-busters/#:~:text=The%20focus%20of%20Creative%20Art,%2C%20growth%20and%20self%2Dawareness.&amp;text=Reality%3A%20Creative%20Art%20Therapy%20does,to%20affect%20change%20and%20growth."><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">judgement free zone</span></strong></a><strong><span style="background: white;">!</span></strong></p> <p><strong><span style="background: white;">Emotional release:</span></strong></p> <p><span style="background: white;">Growing up, many of us were never taught that it was okay to express how we’re feeling, especially emotions like anger and sadness. In that way, art therapy can be ideal us older folks who often feel stuck when it comes to expressing ourselves. Art therapy provides the opportunity to express our<strong> </strong></span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://creativityintherapy.com/2017/06/expressing-emotions-creativity-6-step-art-process/"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">inner experiences</span></strong></a><strong><span style="background: white;"> </span></strong><span style="background: white;">in a visual way. Through the act of creation, we can release pent-up feelings, reduce stress, and experience emotional release.</span></p> <p><span style="background: white;">Another challenging emotion that art therapy can help with is grief. As we age, we are more likely to experience the<strong> </strong></span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.nari.net.au/the-impact-of-prolonged-grief-in-older-people"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">loss of a loved one</span></strong></a><strong><span style="background: white;"> </span></strong><span style="background: white;">and we don’t get ‘used to it’. The hole it leaves in our hearts is just as dark. Through<strong> </strong></span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.vivianpaans.com.au/blog/healing-through-art-how-art-therapy-can-help-with-grief-and-wellbeing"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">creating art</span></strong></a><strong><span style="background: white;"> </span></strong><span style="background: white;">we can explore the feelings of grief and sadness in a safe, judgement-free space. It can also foster a sense of self-compassion and when we have more compassion for ourselves, it becomes easier to accept our emotions.</span></p> <p><strong><span style="background: white;">Stress relief:</span></strong></p> <p><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.sane.org/information-and-resources/facts-and-guides/facts-mental-health-issues"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">Anxiety, depression, and past traumas</span></strong></a><strong><span style="background: white;"> </span></strong><span style="background: white;">can heavily impact on our daily lives. Risk factors over our lifespans may change but they don’t magically disappear once we hit a certain age. Illness, grief, financial stress, social isolation, and life transitions such as menopause can all be </span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/older-people-and-mental-health"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">contributing factors</span></strong></a><strong><span style="background: white;"> </span></strong><span style="background: white;">of poor mental health for older adults. Creating art can ease symptoms as we refocus on what we’re creating and move thoughts away from overthinking and worry.<strong> </strong>Creating art releases </span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.rtor.org/2018/07/10/benefits-of-art-therapy/"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">dopamine</span></strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">,</span></a><span style="background: white;"> the chemical responsible for allowing us to feel pleasure and satisfaction. This further reduces bothersome symptoms of anxiety and depression.</span></p> <p><span style="background: white;">Also, participating in art therapy leads to a more creative brain. A creative brain is better equipped to create stress-relieving techniques for other areas of our lives. Through creating art, we draw the fears that are inside our minds. This takes them out of our heads and places them away from us, helping us feel more in control.</span></p> <p><span style="background: white;">Recovering from<strong> </strong></span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.interrelate.org.au/news-media/blogs/november-2021/how-art-can-heal-trauma"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">trauma</span></strong></a><strong><span style="background: white;"> c</span></strong><span style="background: white;">an be a lifelong process for many, and it’s important for someone dealing with it to find tools that will help this process. Art therapy can be one of those as it can give a sense of agency and self-understanding through the ability to express feelings symbolically. This can give </span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://anzacata.org/About-CAT"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">new perspectives</span></strong></a><strong><span style="background: white;"> </span></strong><span style="background: white;">of ourselves and our worldview which is essential in the recovery process. It can also help connect with deeply stored emotions and help process them.</span></p> <p><strong><span style="background: white;">Self-discovery:</span></strong></p> <p><span style="background: white;">When we are younger we are often so busy working, socialising, and raising a family many of us never get a chance to take the time out for<strong> </strong></span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.visionpsychology.com/starting-the-process-of-self-discovery/"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">self-discovery</span></strong></a><span style="background: white;">. Self-discovery is important in our lives as it gives us a clearer sense of purpose and direction in life. In turn, this leads to making better decisions that lead to our overall happiness.</span></p> <p><span style="background: white;">Some of us see our kids leave home and suddenly we’re left wondering, who am I when I don’t have a family to care for? Creating art can help us acknowledge and recognise feelings that have been suppressed in our subconscious. Through learning to use different techniques of art our minds open up to thinking more freely. Self-discovery comes from both the finished product we create as well as the process of making it.</span></p> <p><strong><span style="background: white;">Self-esteem:</span></strong></p> <p><span style="background: white;">As we age, it’s easy to look in the mirror and struggle to recognise the person we see. Our bodies are changing, and it can often feel like society doesn’t value us as much as when we were young. It can be a major shift in the way we view ourselves and lead to poor self-esteem. Art therapy teaches us how to use a variety of media to create something new. We can develop talents and see strengths as we master new materials and see the completion of projects. This sense of accomplishment can be a big leg up to our<strong> </strong></span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://artbusinessnews.com/2022/01/benefits-of-art-therapy/"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">self-esteem.</span></strong></a></p> <p><strong><span style="background: white;">A sense of community:</span></strong></p> <p><a style="color: blue;" href="https://likefamily.com.au/blog/what-is-loneliness-and-how-does-it-affect-someone/"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">Loneliness</span></strong></a><strong><span style="background: white;"> </span></strong><span style="background: white;">is a big contributor to poor mental health.<strong> </strong></span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.psychiatrist.com/news/study-why-older-people-feel-so-lonely/"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">Studies</span></strong></a><strong><span style="background: white;"> </span></strong><span style="background: white;">show two groups of people are most at risk: young adults and older people. With factors at our age such as children leaving home, not working as much or at all, living alone, and chronic illness, it’s easy to see how loneliness can creep into our lives. Group art therapy is a wonderful way to connect with others. We share a space with those who have similar interests, and it gives us a sense of belonging. For those who can't make a session in person due to distance or illness, some therapists offer </span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.artandplaytherapytraining.com.au/art_therapy"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">online group art therapy</span></strong></a><strong><span style="background: white;">.</span></strong></p> <p><span style="background: white;">You don’t need to see an art therapist to get the mental health benefits of creating art. But the advantage of that is they have the skills to work out what best suits your needs. They’ll also work with you through any tough emotions that may arise from your art therapy.</span></p> <p><span style="background: white;">So maybe it’s time to hide those new coloured pencils from the little ones, crack them open, and enjoy them yourself!</span></p> <p><span style="background: white;">If you’d like to find out more about art therapy sessions, the links below are helpful. They offer online, in person and group sessions.</span></p> <p><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.zevaarttherapy.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span style="background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">https://www.zevaarttherapy.com/</span></a></p> <p><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.alliedarttherapy.com.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span style="background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">https://www.alliedarttherapy.com.au/</span></a></p> <p><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.solacecreativetherapies.com.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span style="background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">https://www.solacecreativetherapies.com.au/</span></a><span style="background: white;"> </span></p> <p><a style="color: blue;" href="https://cata.org.au/programs-ndis/online-creative-art-therapy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span style="background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">https://cata.org.au/programs-ndis/online-creative-art-therapy/</span></a><span style="background: white;"> </span></p> <p><span style="background: white;">And for some more ideas on dabbling in art therapy on your own (or with a friend), check out Shelley Klammer’s amazing resources. She is US-based but has some online workshops that are also amazing:</span></p> <p><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.expressiveartworkshops.com/expressive-art-resources/100-art-therapy-exercises/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span style="background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">https://www.expressiveartworkshops.com/expressive-art-resources/100-art-therapy-exercises/</span></a></p> <p><em>Article written by Kylie Carberry</em></p> <p><em>Image: Shutterstock</em></p>

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Kick up your heels – ballroom dancing offers benefits to the aging brain and could help stave off dementia

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/helena-blumen-1231899">Helena Blumen</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/albert-einstein-college-of-medicine-3638">Albert Einstein College of Medicine</a></em></p> <h2>The big idea</h2> <p>Social ballroom dancing can improve cognitive functions and reduce brain atrophy in older adults who are at increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. That’s the key finding of my team’s <a href="https://doi.org/10.1123/japa.2022-0176">recently published study</a> in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity.</p> <p>In our study, we enrolled 25 adults over 65 years of age in either six months of twice-weekly ballroom dancing classes or six months of twice-weekly treadmill walking classes. None of them were engaged in formal dancing or other exercise programs.</p> <p>The overall goal was to see how each experience affected cognitive function and brain health.</p> <p>While none of the study volunteers had a dementia diagnosis, all performed a bit lower than expected on at least one of our dementia screening tests. We found that older adults that completed six months of social dancing and those that completed six months of treadmill walking improved their executive functioning – an umbrella term for planning, reasoning and processing tasks that require attention.</p> <p>Dancing, however, generated significantly greater improvements than treadmill walking on one measure of executive function and on processing speed, which is the time it takes to respond to or process information. Compared with walking, dancing was also associated with reduced brain atrophy in the hippocampus – a brain region that is key to memory functioning and is particularly affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers also know that this part of our brain can undergo neurogenesis – or grow new neurons – <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0611721104">in response to aerobic exercise</a>.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/unmbhUvnGow?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><figcaption><span class="caption">Research shows those who regularly dance with a partner have a more positive outlook on life.</span></figcaption></figure> <p>While several previous studies suggest that dancing has beneficial effects <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afaa270">on cognitive function in older adults</a>, only a few studies have compared it directly with traditional exercises. Our study is the first to observe both better cognitive function and improved brain health following dancing than walking in older adults at risk for dementia. We think that social dancing may be more beneficial than walking because it is physically, socially and cognitively demanding – and therefore strengthens a wide network of brain regions.</p> <p>While dancing, you’re not only using brain regions that are important for physical movement. You’re also relying on brain regions that are important for interacting and adapting to the movements of your dancing partner, as well as those necessary for learning new dance steps or remembering those you’ve learned already.</p> <h2>Why it matters</h2> <p>Nearly 6 million older adults in the U.S. and 55 million worldwide <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jalz.2019.01.010">have Alzheimer’s disease</a> or a <a href="https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia">related dementia</a>, yet there is no cure. Sadly, the efficacy and ethics surrounding recently developed drug treatments <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/21507740.2022.2129858">are still under debate</a>.</p> <p>The good news is that older adults can potentially <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30367-6">lower their risk for dementia</a> through lifestyle interventions, even later in life. These include reducing social isolation and physical inactivity.</p> <p>Social ballroom dancing targets both isolation and inactivity. In these later stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, a better understanding of the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/23337214211005223">indirect effects of COVID-19</a> – particularly those that increase dementia risk, such as social isolation – is urgently needed. In my view, early intervention is critical to prevent dementia from becoming the next pandemic. Social dancing could be a particularly timely way to overcome the adverse cognitive and brain effects associated with isolation and fewer social interactions during the pandemic.</p> <h2>What still isn’t known</h2> <p>Traditional aerobic exercise interventions such as treadmill-walking or running have been shown to lead to modest but reliable improvements in cognition – <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691617707316">particularly in executive function</a>.</p> <p>My team’s study builds on that research and provides preliminary evidence that not all exercise is equal when it comes to brain health. Yet our sample size was quite small, and larger studies are needed to confirm these initial findings. Additional studies are also needed to determine the optimal length, frequency and intensity of dancing classes that may result in positive changes.</p> <p>Lifestyle interventions like social ballroom dancing are a promising, noninvasive and cost-effective path toward staving off dementia as we – eventually – leave the COVID-19 pandemic behind.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/194969/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/helena-blumen-1231899">Helena Blumen</a>, Associate Professor of Medicine and Neurology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/albert-einstein-college-of-medicine-3638">Albert Einstein College of Medicine</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/kick-up-your-heels-ballroom-dancing-offers-benefits-to-the-aging-brain-and-could-help-stave-off-dementia-194969">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

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Are young people smarter than older adults? My research shows cognitive differences between generations are diminishing

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/stephen-badham-1531316">Stephen Badham</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/nottingham-trent-university-1338">Nottingham Trent University</a></em></p> <p>We often assume young people are smarter, or at least quicker, than older people. For example, we’ve all heard that scientists, and even more so mathematicians, <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2014/08/07/who-says-scientists-peak-by-age-50/">carry out their most important work</a> when they’re comparatively young.</p> <p>But my new research, <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S027322972400008X#:%7E:text=Highlights&amp;text=Three%20review%20studies%20measure%20secular,%2C%20education%2C%20and%20overall%20health.">published in Developmental Review</a>, suggests that cognitive differences between the old and young are tapering off over time. This is hugely important as stereotypes about the intelligence of people in their sixties or older may be holding them back – in the workplace and beyond.</p> <p>Cognitive ageing is often measured by comparing young adults, aged 18-30, to older adults, aged 65 and over. There are a variety of tasks that older adults do not perform well on compared to young adults, such as memory, spatial ability and speed of processing, which often form the basis of <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-iq-test-wars-why-screening-for-intelligence-is-still-so-controversial-81428">IQ tests</a>. That said, there are a few tasks that older people do better at than younger people, such as reading comprehension and vocabulary.</p> <p>Declines in cognition are driven by a process called <a href="https://www.nature.com/collections/cbjacdabdf">cognitive ageing</a>, which happens to everyone. Surprisingly, age-related cognitive deficits start very early in adulthood, and declines in cognition have been measured as dropping in adults as young as just 25.</p> <p>Often, it is only when people reach older age that these effects add up to a noticeable amount. Common complaints consist of walking into a room and forgetting why you entered, as well as difficulty remembering names and struggling to drive in the dark.</p> <h2>The trouble with comparison</h2> <p>Sometimes, comparing young adults to older adults can be misleading though. The two generations were brought up in different times, with different levels of education, healthcare and nutrition. They also lead different daily lives, with some older people having lived though a world war while the youngest generation is growing up with the internet.</p> <p>Most of these factors favour the younger generation, and this can explain a proportion of their advantage in cognitive tasks.</p> <p>Indeed, much existing research shows that <a href="https://theconversation.com/iq-tests-are-humans-getting-smarter-158837">IQ has been improving</a> globally throughout the 20th century. This means that later-born generations are more cognitively able than those born earlier. This is even found when both generations are tested in the same way at the same age.</p> <p>Currently, there is growing evidence that <a href="https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.1718793115">increases in IQ are levelling off,</a> such that, in the most recent couple of decades, young adults are no more cognitively able than young adults born shortly beforehand.</p> <p>Together, these factors may underlie the current result, namely that cognitive differences between young and older adults are diminishing over time.</p> <h2>New results</h2> <p>My research began when my team started getting strange results in our lab. We found that often the age differences we were getting between young and older adults was smaller or absent, compared to prior research from early 2000s.</p> <p>This prompted me to start looking at trends in age differences across the psychological literature in this area. I uncovered a variety of data that compared young and older adults from the 1960s up to the current day. I plotted this data against year of publication, and found that age deficits have been getting smaller over the last six decades.</p> <p>Next, I assessed if the average increases in cognitive ability over time seen across all individuals was a result that also applied to older adults specifically. Many large databases exist where groups of individuals are recruited every few years to take part in the same tests. I analysed studies using these data sets to look at older adults.</p> <p>I found that, just like younger people, older adults were indeed becoming more cognitively able with each cohort. But if differences are disappearing, does that mean younger people’s improvements in cognitive ability have slowed down or that older people’s have increased?</p> <p>I analysed data from my own laboratory that I had gathered over a seven-year period to find out. Here, I was able to dissociate the performance of the young from the performance of the older. I found that each cohort of young adults was performing to a similar extent across this seven-year period, but that older adults were showing improvements in both processing speed and vocabulary scores.</p> <figure class="align-center "><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/591482/original/file-20240501-24-esxcic.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/591482/original/file-20240501-24-esxcic.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=333&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/591482/original/file-20240501-24-esxcic.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=333&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/591482/original/file-20240501-24-esxcic.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=333&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/591482/original/file-20240501-24-esxcic.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=418&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/591482/original/file-20240501-24-esxcic.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=418&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/591482/original/file-20240501-24-esxcic.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=418&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="The figure shows data for a speed-based task where higher scores represent better performance." /><figcaption><span class="caption">The figure shows data for a speed-based task where higher scores represent better performance.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/">CC BY-SA</a></span></figcaption></figure> <p>I believe the older adults of today are benefiting from many of the factors previously most applicable to young adults. For example, the number of children who went to school <a href="https://education-uk.org/history/chapter12.html">increased significantly</a> in the 1960s – with the system being more similar to what it is today than what it was at the start of the 20th century.</p> <p>This is being reflected in that cohort’s increased scores today, now they are older adults. At the same time, young adults have hit a ceiling and are no longer improving as much with each cohort.</p> <p>It is not entirely clear why the young generations have stopped improving so much. Some research has <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.intell.2016.10.002">explored maternal age, mental health and even evolutionary trends</a>. I favour the opinion that there is just a natural ceiling – a limit to how much factors such as education, nutrition and health can improve cognitive performance.</p> <p>These data have important implications for research into dementia. For example, it is possible that a modern older adult in the early stages of dementia might pass a dementia test that was designed 20 or 30 years ago for the general population at that time.</p> <p>Therefore, as older adults are performing better in general than previous generations, it may be necessary to revise definitions of dementia that depend on an individuals’ expected level of ability.</p> <p>Ultimately, we need to rethink what it means to become older. And there’s finally some good news. Ultimately, we can expect to be more cognitively able than our grandparents were when we reach their age.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/229132/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/stephen-badham-1531316">Stephen Badham</a>, Professor of Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/nottingham-trent-university-1338">Nottingham Trent University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/are-young-people-smarter-than-older-adults-my-research-shows-cognitive-differences-between-generations-are-diminishing-229132">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

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Terminal lucidity: why do loved ones with dementia sometimes ‘come back’ before death?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/yen-ying-lim-355185">Yen Ying Lim</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/diny-thomson-1519736">Diny Thomson</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></p> <p>Dementia is often described as “the long goodbye”. Although the person is still alive, dementia slowly and irreversibly chips away at their memories and the qualities that make someone “them”.</p> <p>Dementia eventually takes away the person’s ability to communicate, eat and drink on their own, understand where they are, and recognise family members.</p> <p>Since as early as the <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21764150/">19th century</a>, stories from loved ones, caregivers and health-care workers have described some people with dementia suddenly becoming lucid. They have described the person engaging in meaningful conversation, sharing memories that were assumed to have been lost, making jokes, and even requesting meals.</p> <p>It is estimated <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20010032/">43% of people</a> who experience this brief lucidity die within 24 hours, and 84% within a week.</p> <p>Why does this happen?</p> <h2>Terminal lucidity or paradoxical lucidity?</h2> <p>In 2009, researchers Michael Nahm and Bruce Greyson coined the term “<a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21764150/">terminal lucidity</a>”, since these lucid episodes often occurred shortly before death.</p> <p>But not all lucid episodes indicate death is imminent. <a href="https://alz-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/alz.13667">One study</a> found many people with advanced dementia will show brief glimmers of their old selves more than six months before death.</p> <p>Lucidity has also been <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167494311001865?via%3Dihub">reported</a> in other conditions that affect the brain or thinking skills, such as meningitis, schizophrenia, and in people with brain tumours or who have sustained a brain injury.</p> <p>Moments of lucidity that do not necessarily indicate death are sometimes called <a href="https://alz-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/alz.12579">paradoxical lucidity</a>. It is considered paradoxical as it defies the expected course of neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia.</p> <p>But it’s important to note these episodes of lucidity are temporary and sadly do not represent a reversal of neurodegenerative disease.</p> <h2>Why does terminal lucidity happen?</h2> <p>Scientists have struggled to explain why terminal lucidity happens. Some episodes of lucidity have been reported to occur in the presence of loved ones. Others have reported that <a href="https://psywb.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s13612-014-0024-5">music can sometimes improve lucidity</a>. But many episodes of lucidity do not have a distinct trigger.</p> <p><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0300957223002162">A research team from New York University</a> speculated that changes in brain activity before death may cause terminal lucidity. But this doesn’t fully explain why people suddenly recover abilities that were assumed to be lost.</p> <p>Paradoxical and terminal lucidity are also very difficult to study. Not everyone with advanced dementia will experience episodes of lucidity before death. Lucid episodes are also unpredictable and typically occur without a particular trigger.</p> <p>And as terminal lucidity can be a joyous time for those who witness the episode, it would be unethical for scientists to use that time to conduct their research. At the time of death, it’s also difficult for scientists to interview caregivers about any lucid moments that may have occurred.</p> <p>Explanations for terminal lucidity extend beyond science. These moments of mental clarity may be a way for the dying person to say final goodbyes, gain closure before death, and reconnect with family and friends. Some believe episodes of terminal lucidity are representative of the person connecting with an afterlife.</p> <h2>Why is it important to know about terminal lucidity?</h2> <p>People can have a variety of reactions to seeing terminal lucidity in a person with advanced dementia. While some will experience it as being peaceful and bittersweet, others may find it deeply confusing and upsetting. There may also be an urge to modify care plans and request lifesaving measures for the dying person.</p> <p>Being aware of terminal lucidity can help loved ones understand it is part of the dying process, acknowledge the person with dementia will not recover, and allow them to make the most of the time they have with the lucid person.</p> <p>For those who witness it, terminal lucidity can be a final, precious opportunity to reconnect with the person that existed before dementia took hold and the “long goodbye” began.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/202342/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/yen-ying-lim-355185"><em>Yen Ying Lim</em></a><em>, Associate Professor, Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/diny-thomson-1519736">Diny Thomson</a>, PhD (Clinical Neuropsychology) Candidate and Provisional Psychologist, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/terminal-lucidity-why-do-loved-ones-with-dementia-sometimes-come-back-before-death-202342">original article</a>.</em></p>

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7 things you need to know about fear

<p>Fear is an emotion that can be debilitating and unsettling. But it is a natural part of life and we are hardwired to experience it.</p> <p><strong>1. Fear can protect you</strong></p> <p>Experiencing fear elicits responses from your brain to your limbs. It is the body’s natural way of protecting itself. For our ancestors the fear was often more physical – such as being chased by a lion. Modern fear can range from physical danger (such as a spider or an intruder) or even from perceived danger (such as the worry that something will happen to our partner or child). Feeling fear doesn’t make you a weak person. In fact, not feeling any fear could mean that there are neurological issues present.</p> <p><strong>2. There are many levels of fear</strong></p> <p>Not everything that we fear is intense and paralysing. It can range from low levels of fear (such as worry about being robbed), to medium levels of fear (say if a loved one is in hospital) to high levels of fear (you are being chased by an attacker). Fear can also become stronger when we hear about events such as a terrorist attack or a natural disaster. It all relates back to how much the scary event will impact our lives.</p> <p><strong>3. Fear is not just instinctive</strong></p> <p>We become fearful due to three main factors: instinct, learning, and teaching. An example of instinctual fear is pain – we learn to be fearful of things that hurt us. Learned fear comes from being exposed to unpleasant or uncomfortable things and wanting to avoid them in the future. For instance, having a relative die in a car crash could make you fearful of driving in the future. Other fears are taught to us by our family, friends and even society. For example, some religions teach us to be fearful of other religions or customs.</p> <p><strong>4. Fear can arise without a real threat of danger</strong></p> <p>Fear can also be imagined, so it can be felt even when there is no danger present. If we feel this all the time it can lead to anxiety and depression. It’s important to think about whether the thing you are fearful of is real or likely to happen before you give it too much airtime.</p> <p><strong>5. Fear produces fear</strong></p> <p>If you are already in a state of fear, your response to more fear is heightened. For instance if you are watching a scary movie, a small noise from the next room could make you jump and scream. Your senses are on red alert, primed to act if the need arises.</p> <p><strong>6. Fear leads to action</strong></p> <p>Depending on the individual and the level of fear they are experiencing, there tend to be four main types of action as a result of fear: freeze, </p> <p>fight, flight, or fright. </p> <p>When you freeze it means you don’t move while you decide what to do (for instance you see a snake in your garden). From there you choose either fight (grab a shovel) or flight mode (walk away). If the fear is too much you might experience fright, where you do nothing and take no action (stand there screaming or worrying).</p> <p><strong>7. Real threats can lead to heroic actions</strong></p> <p>Imagined threats can cause us to live in a permanent state of fear and stress. But often we will do nothing about it (for instance being worried about sharks attacking us in the ocean). Compare this to the threat from a real and identifiable source, which will make you spring into action almost immediately. Often we don’t even make the decision to act, it just happens automatically (such as moving a child out of the way of an approaching car). </p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em> </p>

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What is childhood dementia? And how could new research help?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kim-hemsley-1529322">Kim Hemsley</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/flinders-university-972">Flinders University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nicholas-smith-1529324">Nicholas Smith</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-adelaide-1119">University of Adelaide</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/siti-mubarokah-1529323">Siti Mubarokah</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/flinders-university-972">Flinders University</a></em></p> <p>“Childhood” and “dementia” are two words we wish we didn’t have to use together. But sadly, around <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/brain/awad242">1,400 Australian children and young people</a> live with currently untreatable childhood dementia.</p> <p>Broadly speaking, childhood dementia is caused by any one of <a href="https://www.childhooddementia.org/what-is-childhood-dementia#what">more than 100</a> rare genetic disorders. Although the causes differ from dementia acquired later in life, the progressive nature of the illness is the same.</p> <p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/brain/awad242">Half</a> of infants and children diagnosed with childhood dementia will not reach their tenth birthday, and most will die <a href="https://www.childhooddementia.org/what-is-childhood-dementia#what">before turning 18</a>.</p> <p>Yet this devastating condition has lacked awareness, and importantly, the research attention needed to work towards treatments and a cure.</p> <h2>More about the causes</h2> <p>Most types of childhood dementia are <a href="https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/146/11/4446/7226999">caused</a> by <a href="https://www.genome.gov/genetics-glossary/Mutation">mutations</a> (or mistakes) in our <a href="https://www.genome.gov/genetics-glossary/Deoxyribonucleic-Acid">DNA</a>. These mistakes lead to a range of rare genetic disorders, which in turn cause childhood dementia.</p> <p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/brain/awad242">Two-thirds</a> of childhood dementia disorders are caused by “<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459183/">inborn errors of metabolism</a>”. This means the metabolic pathways involved in the breakdown of carbohydrates, lipids, fatty acids and proteins in the body fail.</p> <p>As a result, nerve pathways fail to function, neurons (nerve cells that send messages around the body) die, and progressive cognitive decline occurs.</p> <h2>What happens to children with childhood dementia?</h2> <p>Most children initially appear unaffected. But after a period of apparently normal development, children with childhood dementia <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2023.09.006">progressively lose</a> all previously acquired skills and abilities, such as talking, walking, learning, remembering and reasoning.</p> <p>Childhood dementia also leads to significant changes in behaviour, such as aggression and hyperactivity. Severe sleep disturbance is common and vision and hearing can also be affected. Many children have seizures.</p> <p>The age when symptoms start can vary, depending partly on the particular genetic disorder causing the dementia, but the average is around <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093%2Fbrain%2Fawad242">two years old</a>. The symptoms are caused by significant, progressive brain damage.</p> <h2>Are there any treatments available?</h2> <p>Childhood dementia treatments currently <a href="https://www.childhooddementia.org/news/report-reveals-global-research-inequity">under evaluation</a> or approved are for a very limited number of disorders, and are only available in some parts of the world. These include gene replacement, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/jmd2.12378">gene-modified cell therapy</a> and protein or <a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1712649">enzyme replacement therapy</a>. Enzyme replacement therapy is available in Australia for <a href="https://australianprescriber.tg.org.au/articles/cerliponase-alfa-for-neuronal-ceroid-lipofuscinosis-type-2-disease.html">one form of childhood dementia</a>. These therapies attempt to “fix” the problems causing the disease, and have shown promising results.</p> <p>Other experimental therapies include ones that <a href="https://doi.org/10.3390/life12050608">target</a> faulty protein production or <a href="https://doi.org/10.1056/nejmoa2310151">reduce inflammation</a> in the brain.</p> <h2>Research attention is lacking</h2> <p>Death rates for Australian children with cancer <a href="http://www.childhooddementia.org/getasset/2WX39O">nearly halved</a> between <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/australias-children/contents/health/cancer-incidence-survival">1997 and 2017</a> thanks to research that has enabled the development of multiple treatments. But over recent decades, <a href="http://www.childhooddementia.org/getasset/2WX39O">nothing has changed</a> for children with dementia.</p> <p>In 2017–2023, research for childhood cancer received over four times more funding per patient compared to funding for <a href="https://www.childhooddementia.org/getasset/2WX39O">childhood dementia</a>. This is despite childhood dementia causing a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/brain/awad242">similar number of deaths</a> each year as childhood cancer.</p> <p>The success <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/australias-children/contents/health/cancer-incidence-survival">for childhood cancer sufferers</a> in recent decades demonstrates how adequately funding medical research can lead to improvements in patient outcomes.</p> <p>Another bottleneck for childhood dementia patients in Australia is the lack of access to clinical trials. An <a href="https://www.childhooddementia.org/news/report-reveals-global-research-inequity">analysis</a> published in March this year showed that in December 2023, only two clinical trials were recruiting patients with childhood dementia in Australia.</p> <p>Worldwide however, 54 trials were recruiting, meaning Australian patients and their families are left watching patients in other parts of the world receive potentially lifesaving treatments, with no recourse themselves.</p> <p>That said, we’ve seen a slowing in the establishment of <a href="https://www.childhooddementia.org/news/report-reveals-global-research-inequity">clinical trials</a> for childhood dementia across the world in recent years.</p> <p>In addition, we know from <a href="https://www.childhooddementia.org/join-us/professionals/impacts">consultation with families</a> that current care and support systems <a href="https://www.childhooddementia.org/getasset/44MLP8">are not meeting the needs</a> of children with dementia and their families.</p> <h2>New research</h2> <p>Recently, we were awarded <a href="https://www.premier.sa.gov.au/media-releases/news-items/major-funding-boost-for-research-into-childhood-dementia">new funding</a> for <a href="https://www.flinders.edu.au/giving/our-donors/impact-of-giving/improving-the-lives-of-children-with-dementia">our research</a> on childhood dementia. This will help us continue and expand studies that seek to develop lifesaving treatments.</p> <p>More broadly, we need to see increased funding in Australia and around the world for research to develop and translate treatments for the broad spectrum of childhood dementia conditions.</p> <p><em>Dr Kristina Elvidge, head of research at the <a href="https://www.childhooddementia.org/our-people">Childhood Dementia Initiative</a>, and Megan Maack, director and CEO, contributed to this article.</em><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/228508/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kim-hemsley-1529322">Kim Hemsley</a>, Head, Childhood Dementia Research Group, Flinders Health and Medical Research Institute, College of Medicine and Public Health, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/flinders-university-972">Flinders University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nicholas-smith-1529324">Nicholas Smith</a>, Head, Paediatric Neurodegenerative Diseases Research Group, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-adelaide-1119">University of Adelaide</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/siti-mubarokah-1529323">Siti Mubarokah</a>, Research Associate, Childhood Dementia Research Group, Flinders Health and Medical Research Institute, College of Medicine and Public Health, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/flinders-university-972">Flinders University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-is-childhood-dementia-and-how-could-new-research-help-228508">original article</a>.</em></p>

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What’s the difference between ADD and ADHD?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kathy-gibbs-1392051">Kathy Gibbs</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a></em></p> <p>Around <a href="https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/attention-deficit-disorder-add-or-adhd#:%7E:text=Around%201%20in%20every%2020,have%20symptoms%20as%20an%20adult.">one in 20 people</a> has attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It’s one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in childhood and often continues into adulthood.</p> <p>ADHD is <a href="https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/dsm">diagnosed</a> when people experience problems with inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity that negatively impacts them at school or work, in social settings and at home.</p> <p>Some people call the condition attention-deficit disorder, or ADD. So what’s the difference?</p> <p>In short, what was previously called ADD is now known as ADHD. So how did we get here?</p> <h2>Let’s start with some history</h2> <p>The <a href="https://www.guilford.com/books/Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity-Disorder/Russell-Barkley/9781462538874">first clinical description</a> of children with inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity was in 1902. British paediatrician Professor George Still <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26740929/">presented</a> a series of lectures about his observations of 43 children who were defiant, aggressive, undisciplined and extremely emotional or passionate.</p> <p>Since then, our understanding of the condition evolved and made its way into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, known as the DSM. Clinicians use the DSM to diagnose mental health and neurodevelopmental conditions.</p> <p>The first DSM, published in 1952, did not include a specific related child or adolescent category. But the <a href="https://dsm.psychiatryonline.org/doi/abs/10.1176/appi.books.9780890420355.dsm-ii">second edition</a>, published in 1968, <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00207411.2015.1009310">included a section</a> on behaviour disorders in young people. It referred to ADHD-type characteristics as “hyperkinetic reaction of childhood or adolescence”. This described the excessive, involuntary movement of children with the disorder.</p> <p>In the early 1980s, the <a href="https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/dsm/about-dsm/history-of-the-dsm">third DSM</a> added a condition it called “attention deficit disorder”, listing two types: attention deficit disorder <em>with</em> hyperactivity (ADDH) and attention deficit disorder as the subtype <em>without</em> the hyperactivity.</p> <p>However, seven years later, a revised DSM (DSM-III-R) replaced ADD (and its two sub-types) with ADHD and three sub-types we have today:</p> <ul> <li>predominantly inattentive</li> <li>predominantly hyperactive-impulsive</li> <li>combined.</li> </ul> <h2>Why change ADD to ADHD?</h2> <p>ADHD replaced ADD in the DSM-III-R in 1987 for a number of reasons.</p> <p>First was the controversy and debate over the presence or absence of hyperactivity: the “H” in ADHD. When ADD was <a href="https://www.guilford.com/books/Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity-Disorder/Russell-Barkley/9781462538874">initially named</a>, little research had been done to determine the similarities and differences between the two sub-types.</p> <p>The next issue was around the term “attention-deficit” and whether these deficits were similar or different across both sub-types. Questions also arose about the extent of these differences: if these sub-types were so different, were they actually different conditions?</p> <p>Meanwhile, a new focus on inattention (an “attention deficit”) recognised that children with inattentive behaviours <a href="https://academic.oup.com/shm/article/30/4/767/2919401">may not necessarily be</a> disruptive and challenging but are more likely to be forgetful and daydreamers.</p> <h2>Why do some people use the term ADD?</h2> <p>There was a <a href="https://academic.oup.com/shm/article/30/4/767/2919401">surge of diagnoses</a> in the 1980s. So it’s understandable that some people still hold onto the term ADD.</p> <p>Some may identify as having ADD because out of habit, because this is what they were originally diagnosed with or because they don’t have hyperactivity/impulsivity traits.</p> <p>Others who don’t have ADHD may use the term they came across in the 80s or 90s, not knowing the terminology has changed.</p> <h2>How is ADHD currently diagnosed?</h2> <p>The three sub-types of ADHD, outlined in the DSM-5 are:</p> <ul> <li> <p>predominantly inattentive. People with the inattentive sub-type have difficulty sustaining concentration, are easily distracted and forgetful, lose things frequently, and are unable to follow detailed instructions</p> </li> <li> <p>predominantly hyperactive-impulsive. Those with this sub-type find it hard to be still, need to move constantly in structured situations, frequently interrupt others, talk non-stop and struggle with self control</p> </li> <li> <p>combined. Those with the combined sub-type experience the characteristics of those who are inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive.</p> </li> </ul> <p>ADHD diagnoses <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/australias-children/contents/health/children-mental-illness">continue to rise</a> among children and adults. And while ADHD was commonly diagnosed in boys, more recently we have seen growing numbers of girls and women seeking diagnoses.</p> <p>However, some international experts <a href="https://academic.oup.com/shm/article/30/4/767/2919401">contest</a> the expanded definition of ADHD, driven by clinical practice in the United States. They argue the challenges of unwanted behaviours and educational outcomes for young people with the condition are uniquely shaped by each country’s cultural, political and local factors.</p> <p>Regardless of the name change to reflect what we know about the condition, ADHD continues to impact educational, social and life situations of many children, adolescents and adults.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/225162/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kathy-gibbs-1392051">Kathy Gibbs</a>, Program Director for the Bachelor of Education, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/whats-the-difference-between-add-and-adhd-225162">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Better sleep is a protective factor against dementia

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/andree-ann-baril-1494268">Andrée-Ann Baril</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/universite-de-montreal-1743">Université de Montréal</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/matthew-pase-1494296">Matthew Pase</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065"><em>Monash University</em></a></em></p> <p>Dementia is a progressive loss of cognitive abilities, such as memory, that is significant enough to have an impact on a person’s daily activities.</p> <p>It can be caused by a number of different diseases, including <a href="https://alzheimer.ca/en/about-dementia/what-alzheimers-disease">Alzheimer’s</a>, which is the most common form. Dementia is caused by a loss of neurons over a long period of time. Since, by the time symptoms appear, many changes in the brain have already occurred, many scientists are focusing on studying the risk and protective factors for dementia.</p> <p>A risk factor, or conversely, a protective factor, is a condition or behaviour that increases or reduces the risk of developing a disease, but does not guarantee either outcome. Some risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, such as age or genetics, are not modifiable, but there are several other factors we can influence, <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/article/S0140-6736(20)30367-6/fulltext">specifically lifestyle habits and their impact on our overall health</a>.</p> <p>These risk factors include depression, lack of physical activity, social isolation, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking, as well as poor sleep.</p> <p>We have been focusing our research on the question of sleep for over 10 years, particularly in the context of the <a href="https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/science/framingham-heart-study-fhs">Framingham Heart Study</a>. In this large community-based cohort study, ongoing since the 1940s, the health of surviving participants has been monitored to the present day. As researchers in sleep medicine and epidemiology, we have expertise in researching the role of sleep and sleep disorders in cognitive and psychiatric brain aging.</p> <p>As part of our research, we monitored and analyzed the sleep of people aged 60 and over to see who did — or did not — develop dementia.</p> <h2>Sleep as a risk or protective factor against dementia</h2> <p>Sleep appears to play an essential role in a number of brain functions, such as memory. Good quality sleep <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaneurology/fullarticle/2793873">could therefore play a vital role in preventing dementia</a>.</p> <p>Sleep is important for maintaining <a href="https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.1241224">good connections in the brain</a>. Recently, research has revealed that sleep seems to have a function similar to that of a garbage truck for the brain: <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mad.2023.111899">deep sleep could be crucial for eliminating metabolic waste from the brain</a>, including clearing certain proteins, such as those known to accumulate in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.</p> <p>However, the links between deep sleep and dementia still have to be clarified.</p> <h2>What is deep sleep?</h2> <p>During a night’s sleep, we go through several <a href="http://ceams-carsm.ca/en/a-propos-du-sommeil/">sleep stages</a> that succeed one another and are repeated.</p> <p>NREM sleep (non-rapid eye movement sleep) is divided into light NREM sleep (NREM1 stage), NREM sleep (NREM2 stage) and deep NREM sleep, also called slow-wave sleep (NREM3 stage). The latter is associated with several restorative functions. Next, REM sleep (rapid eye movement sleep) is the stage generally associated with the most vivid dreams. An adult generally spends around 15 to 20 per cent of each night in deep sleep, if we add up all the periods of NREM3 sleep.</p> <p>Several sleep changes are common in adults, such as going to bed and waking up earlier, sleeping for shorter periods of time and less deeply, and waking up more frequently during the night.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/579041/original/file-20240229-16-efo9mx.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/579041/original/file-20240229-16-efo9mx.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/579041/original/file-20240229-16-efo9mx.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=279&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/579041/original/file-20240229-16-efo9mx.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=279&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/579041/original/file-20240229-16-efo9mx.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=279&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/579041/original/file-20240229-16-efo9mx.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=350&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/579041/original/file-20240229-16-efo9mx.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=350&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/579041/original/file-20240229-16-efo9mx.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=350&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">Sleep stages, and the role of deep sleep for brain health.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">(Andrée-Ann Baril)</span></span></figcaption></figure> <h2>Loss of deep sleep linked to dementia</h2> <p>Participants in the <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaneurology/fullarticle/2810957">Framingham Heart Study</a> were assessed using a sleep recording — known as polysomnography — on two occasions, approximately five years apart, in 1995-1998 and again in 2001-2003.</p> <p>Many people showed a reduction in their deep slow-wave sleep over the years, as is to be expected with aging. Conversely, the amount of deep sleep in some people remained stable or even increased.</p> <p>Our team of researchers from the Framingham Heart Study followed 346 participants aged 60 and over for a further 17 years to observe who developed dementia and who did not.</p> <p>Progressive loss of deep sleep over time was associated with an increased risk of dementia, whatever the cause, and particularly Alzheimer’s type dementia. These results were independent of many other risk factors for dementia.</p> <p>Although our results do not prove that loss of deep sleep causes dementia, they do suggest that it could be a risk factor in the elderly. Other aspects of sleep may also be important, such as its duration and quality.</p> <h2>Strategies to improve deep sleep</h2> <p>Knowing the impact of a lack of deep sleep on cognitive health, what strategies can be used to improve it?</p> <p>First and foremost, if you’re experiencing sleep problems, it’s worth talking to your doctor. Many sleep disorders are underdiagnosed and treatable, particularly through behavioural (i.e. non-medicinal) approaches.</p> <p>Adopting good sleep habits can help, such as going to bed and getting up at consistent times or avoiding bright or blue light in bed, like that of screens.</p> <p>You can also avoid caffeine, limit your alcohol intake, maintain a healthy weight, be physically active during the day, and sleep in a comfortable, dark and quiet environment.</p> <p>The role of deep sleep in preventing dementia remains to be explored and studied. Encouraging sleep with good lifestyle habits could have the potential to help us age in a healthier way.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. 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More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/andree-ann-baril-1494268">Andrée-Ann Baril</a>, Professeure-chercheure adjointe au Département de médecine, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/universite-de-montreal-1743">Université de Montréal</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/matthew-pase-1494296">Matthew Pase</a>, Associate Professor of Neurology and Epidemiology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/better-sleep-is-a-protective-factor-against-dementia-222854">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

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