Mind

Placeholder Content Image

What happens when you don’t get enough sleep

<h2><span style="font-size: 14px;">Sleep deprivation</span></h2> <div class="copy"> <p>Many of us have experienced the effects: feeling tired and cranky, or finding it hard to concentrate. <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/surprising-insights-into-sleeps-purpose/">Sleep</a> is more important for our <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/science/biology/the-brains-wiring-as-youve-never-seen-it-before/">brains</a> than you may realise.</p> <p>Although it may appear you’re “switching off” when you fall asleep, the brain is far from inactive. What we know from studying patterns of brain electrical activity is that while you sleep, your brain cycles through two main types of patterns: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and slow-wave sleep.</p> <p>Slow-wave sleep, which occurs more at the beginning of the night, is characterised by slow rhythms of electrical activity across large numbers of brain cells (occurring one to four times per second). As the night progresses, we have more and more REM sleep. During REM sleep we often have vivid dreams, and our brains show similar patterns of activity to when we are awake.</p> <p><strong>What are our brains doing while we sleep?</strong></p> <p>Sleep serves many different functions. One of these is to help us remember experiences we had during the day. REM sleep is thought to be important for emotional memories (for example, memories involving fear) or procedural memory (such as how to ride a bike). On the other hand, slow-wave sleep is thought to reflect the storing of so-called “declarative” memories, which are the conscious record of your experiences and what you know (for example, what you had for breakfast).</p> <p>We also know experiences are replayed in the brain during sleep – the memories of these experiences are like segments from a movie that can be rewound and played forward again. Replay occurs in neurons in the hippocampus – <a rel="noopener" href="https://qbi.uq.edu.au/brain-basics/memory/where-are-memories-stored" target="_blank">a brain region important for memory</a> – and has been best studied in rats learning to navigate a maze. After a navigation exercise, when the rat is resting, its brain replays the path it took. This helps to strengthen the connections between brain cells, and is therefore thought to be important for consolidating memories.</p> <p>But is it that important for you to remember what you had for breakfast? Probably not. That’s why the brain needs to be selective. Sleep allows it to sift through memories, forgetting certain things and prioritising what’s important. One way it may do this is by pruning away or scaling down unwanted connections.</p> <p>A leading theory of sleep function – the <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24411729" target="_blank">synaptic homeostasis hypothesis</a> – suggests that during sleep there is a widespread weakening of synapses, the connections throughout the brain.</p> <p>This is thought to counterbalance the overall strengthening of these connections that occurs when we are awake and learning. By pruning away excess connections, <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/sleep-cleans-the-brain/">sleep effectively cleans the slate</a>, so we can learn again the next day. Interfering with this scaling down process can, in some cases, lead to more intense (and perhaps unwanted) memories.</p> <p>The importance of sleep for keeping our brains active may be reflected in our changing sleep patterns as we age. Babies and children sleep much more than adults, probably because their developing brains are learning much more, and being exposed to new situations.</p> <p>Later in life, sleep declines and becomes more fragmented. This may reflect either a reduced need for sleep (because we are learning less), or a breakdown in sleep processes as we age.</p> <p>Sleep is also needed to do a bit of brain housekeeping. A <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24136970" target="_blank">2013 US study in mice</a> found that sleep cleanses the brain of toxins that accumulate during waking hours. During sleep, the space between brain cells increases, allowing toxic proteins to be flushed out. It’s possible that by removing these, sleep may stave off neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.</p> <p><strong>Sleep deprivation: the reality</strong></p> <p>Getting enough sleep is important for attention and learning during our waking hours. When we are sleep-deprived, we can’t focus on large amounts of information or sustain attention for long periods. Our reaction times are slowed. We are also less likely to be creative or discover hidden rules when trying to solve a problem.</p> <p>When you haven’t had enough sleep, your brain may force itself to shut down for a few seconds while you’re awake. This is called a micro-sleep and is potentially very dangerous. Drowsiness is a leading cause of motor vehicle accidents, and sleep deprivation affects the brain as severely as alcohol. Sleep deprivation can also lead to fatal accidents in the workplace – a major issue in shift workers.</p> <p>The beneficial effects of sleep on attention and concentration are particularly important for children, who often become hyperactive and disruptive in class when they don’t have enough sleep. <a rel="noopener" href="http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/10/10/peds.2012-0564" target="_blank">A 2012 study in the journal </a><a rel="noopener" href="http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/10/10/peds.2012-0564" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> found getting just one hour less sleep per night over several nights could adversely affect a child’s behaviour in class.</p> <p><strong>Chronic sleep deprivation</strong></p> <p>The longer-term effects of sleep deprivation are more difficult to study in humans for ethical reasons, but chronic sleep disturbances have been linked to brain disorders such as schizophrenia, autism and Alzheimer’s. We don’t know if sleep disturbances are a cause or symptom of these disorders.</p> <p>Overall, the evidence suggests having healthy sleep patterns is key to having a healthy and well-functioning brain.</p> <p><em>This story was prepared by the Queensland Brain Institute and first published on The Conversation. Read <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/why-our-brain-needs-sleep-and-what-happens-if-we-dont-get-enough-of-it-83145" target="_blank">the original article</a>.</em></p> <em><!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --> <img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=18404&amp;title=What+happens+when+you+don%E2%80%99t+get+enough+sleep" alt="" width="1" height="1" /> <!-- End of tracking content syndication --></em></div> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/science/biology/sleep-deprivation-effects/" target="_blank">This article</a> was originally published on <a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/the-queensland-brain-institute" target="_blank">The Queensland Brain Institute</a>. The Queensland Brain Institute (QBI), established in 2003, is a leading institute focussed on two of the greatest challenges of modern science: understanding brain function and the prevention and treatments of disorders of brain function.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p> </div>

Mind

Placeholder Content Image

What is catastrophising?

<p>Our brains are constantly building connections, forming relationships between our experiences, thoughts, actions and consequences. It’s this ongoing process that shapes each person’s view of the world – and affects everything from our reactions to daily problem-solving.</p> <p>But sometimes, our brains build cause-and-effect relationships based on overly simplistic, coincidental, or simply incorrect associations.</p> <p>These biased thought patterns – known as cognitive distortions – usually aren’t grounded in reality and tend to skew negative, says Alissa Jerud, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist and clinical assistant professor of psychology.</p> <p>One common way people distort their worldview is by catastrophising. Here’s what experts want you to know about this cognitive distortion, including how to overcome this type of thinking.</p> <p><strong>What are the different kinds of cognitive distortion?</strong></p> <p>We all experience irrational thoughts now and again. Yet reinforcing negative thought patterns alters our sense of wellbeing for the worse.</p> <p>Psychologist Aaron Beck first proposed this theory of cognitive distortion in 1976. His student David Burns, now a psychiatrist and adjunct clinical professor emeritus at Stanford University School of Medicine, continued Beck’s work by cataloguing how our brains tend to manufacture faulty connections.</p> <p>“None of them is one-size-fits-all,” explains therapist Erica Cramer, but according to Burns’ research, some common ways we cognitively distort our view of the world include:</p> <ul> <li>filtering, magnifying, and dwelling on negative details</li> <li>black-and-white or all-or-nothing thinking</li> <li>overgeneralisation, like thinking that something “always” or “never” happens</li> <li>jumping to conclusions, mind reading and predictive fortune-telling</li> <li>emotional reasoning, or coming to conclusions based on your feelings alone</li> <li>thinking in terms of “should,” “must,” or “ought to” statements</li> <li>holding yourself personally responsible (or blaming others) for things out of your control</li> <li>catastrophising</li> </ul> <p><strong>What is catastrophising?</strong></p> <p>“[Catastrophising] is when you think the worst-case scenario is the most likely scenario,” Cramer says. “Rather than there being an equal chance of something going right or wrong, you assume you are destined to experience a negative outcome.”</p> <p>This line of thinking generally starts with information that has a kernel of truth to it, says Gail Saltz, MD, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry and host of the How Can I Help? podcast from iHeartRadio.</p> <p>But when someone has a catastrophic thought pattern, their imagination takes an otherwise small concern and unravels it to the nth degree – the worst place it can go.</p> <p>Dr Saltz says to imagine a dark and gloomy day.</p> <p>“You look outside, and you think: There’s a thundershower coming; my child’s on her way home from school. It’s probably going to suddenly hit, then she may get struck by lightning and killed, and I will never be able to survive myself because I’ll be in mourning,” she explains. “That would be catastrophising.”</p> <p><strong>What causes catastrophic thinking?</strong></p> <p>“We all engage in catastrophic thinking at times, and there are likely evolutionary roots to this type of thinking,” Dr Jerud says.</p> <p>“In fact, catastrophising may have even been adaptive for our ancestors, as it may have led them to be more vigilant and thus better able to evade potential predators.”</p> <p>But Dr Saltz says switching these evolutionary alarm bells to overdrive can turn catastrophic thinking into an automatic response. Someone living with this cognitive distortion may habitually scan their environment and over-interpret signs of potential danger, concluding the worst-case scenario is the only possible outcome.</p> <p>This snowball effect takes us beyond day-to-day worries. Dr Jerud explains catastrophising is believing that not only will you stutter during your upcoming job interview, but you won’t get that job or any other job. Therefore, you’ll be unemployed forever.</p> <p>“There are infinite causes for cognitive distortions,” Cramer says. “Different situations affect people in different ways.”</p> <p>That’s why there’s no one trigger for catastrophic thinking. People can develop an ingrained catastrophic thought cycle in response to a wide range of situations, like:</p> <ul> <li>past trauma</li> <li>bad parenting</li> <li>work or relationship stress</li> <li>low self-esteem or imposter syndrome</li> <li>conditions like depression or anxiety</li> </ul> <p><strong>Is catastrophising the same as</strong> <strong>anxiety?</strong></p> <p>Catastrophic thinking (and other cognitive distortions) is especially common among individuals who struggle with anxiety, Dr Jerud says. But they’re not mutually exclusive: Not everyone with anxiety gets caught in catastrophic thought patterns.</p> <p>Still, research published in<span> </span><em>Cognitive Therapy and Research</em><span> </span>found that catastrophising is a predictor for mental health conditions, including anxiety, panic, post-traumatic stress and obsessive-compulsive disorders.</p> <p>Catastrophic thinking can also fuel an existing anxiety disorder.</p> <p>“The more you have these catastrophic thoughts, the higher your anxiety does tend to stay,” Dr Saltz says. “It’s kind of a vicious loop.”</p> <p><strong>Is catastrophising connected to other health conditions?</strong></p> <p><span>People can engage in catastrophising without any underlying medical cause. However, research suggests a few conditions may influence catastrophic thought cycles (in addition to anxiety disorders).</span></p> <p><strong>Chronic pain</strong></p> <p>Experiencing chronic or long-term pain is a common avenue to catastrophising thoughts. Research published in<span> </span><em>Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics</em><span> </span>discusses how people with chronic pain often:</p> <ul> <li>worry that they’ll always be in pain (or that it will get continually worse)</li> <li>magnify the threat value of their pain</li> <li>feel helpless that there’s nothing they can do to reduce their pain</li> <li>exaggerate anticipated painful situations</li> </ul> <p><em>Practical Pain Management</em><span> </span>reports that these catastrophic thoughts can actually increase someone’s physical pain – while putting them at a higher risk for disability and complementary conditions like depression.</p> <p>Another 2020 study in the journal<span> </span><em>PAIN</em><span> </span>found that pain catastrophising also leads people to avoid exercise or movement altogether, increasing their potential for greater pain, depression and poor health outcomes.</p> <p><strong>Depression</strong></p> <p>While having catastrophic thoughts is more commonly associated with anxiety, these patterns have a link to depressive disorders, too.</p> <p>Cramer explains that people with depression are more likely to feel like nothing goes right in their lives or that everyone has a low opinion of them. This pattern of negative thinking can make someone more susceptible to developing cognitive distortions like catastrophising.</p> <p><strong>Fatigue</strong></p> <p>Catastrophising can cause somatic – aka physical – symptoms as well. Cramer says cognitive distortion thought patterns could cause someone so much anxiety they experience back pain or headaches, for example.</p> <p>“[Catastrophising] can also make you tired because you are overthinking everything,” she adds.</p> <p>Research backs up this association. A literature review published in the<span> </span><em>Journal of Psychosomatic Research<span> </span></em>suggests someone’s tendency to catastrophise is a good predictor of their fatigue levels and how much that fatigue disrupts their life.</p> <p><strong>How to overcome catastrophic thinking</strong></p> <p>Worries, anxieties and negative thoughts are a normal part of life. But when they evolve into habitual cognitive distortions, these thought patterns can affect your physical and mental health alike.</p> <p>“When we engage in catastrophic thinking, we often miss out on what’s happening in the present moment, which can make it hard to enjoy day-to-day life,” Dr Jerud says.</p> <p>She recommends acknowledging that a feared outcome could happen (as opposed to “will” happen) and then gently shifting your attention back to the present moment. Just don’t try to push the thoughts away, disprove them, or convince yourself that your feared outcomes won’t happen.</p> <p>“The goal here isn’t to get rid of the catastrophic thoughts, but simply to not allow them to dictate what you do or don’t do,” she explains.</p> <p>“This is key because efforts to avoid catastrophic thinking often backfire, causing these thoughts to pop up even more intensely.”</p> <p>Still, rewiring our negative thought patterns might be easier said than done. That’s why the experts recommend a few approaches to help you overcome catastrophic thinking.</p> <p><strong>Therapy </strong></p> <p>Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is a psychological treatment that aims to change thought patterns by helping patients:</p> <ul> <li>learn to recognise and re-evaluate their cognitive distortions</li> <li>develop problem-solving skills and coping mechanisms that help reduce the effect of cognitive distortion triggers</li> <li>build a greater sense of self-confidence, limiting the control that negative fears have over them</li> </ul> <p>“It analyses how your thoughts influence your feelings and behaviours,” Cramer explains.</p> <p>She says CBT not only equips people with concrete tools to recognise and combat their distortions, but when practiced regularly enough, these learned skills become habits, replacing formerly catastrophic thought patterns.</p> <p><strong>Medication</strong></p> <p>While catastrophising isn’t a medical diagnosis itself, it’s often a symptom of conditions like generalised anxiety disorder.</p> <p>Dr Saltz says that for people with high anxiety levels, medication can help reduce symptoms, including diminishing their catastrophic thinking.</p> <p><strong>Mindfulness</strong></p> <p>Cramer says building a practice around distinguishing facts from feelings – a form of mindfulness – can help stop catastrophic thinking in its tracks.</p> <p>“Whenever you are thinking a negative thought, determine if it is a feeling or fact,” she says.</p> <p>“If you do not have any evidence to support the thought, it is simply a feeling and not the actual truth. Anyone can believe anything they want, but is it actually true?”</p> <p><strong>Exercise</strong></p> <p>Physical activity reduces the impact of anxiety disorders on people’s lives, including generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and social anxiety disorder.</p> <p>That’s because, according to Harvard Medical School, exercise:</p> <ul> <li>reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones</li> <li>stimulates the production of endorphins – the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators</li> <li>improves self-image</li> <li>increases strength, stamina and energy levels</li> <li>helps people build routines and social connections</li> </ul> <p>Research published in<span> </span><em>Frontiers in Psychiatry</em><span> </span>found that regular exercise may even have a protective effect against the development or progression of mental health conditions. Similar to the medication approach, focusing on ways to treat someone’s underlying anxiety may help reduce their catastrophic thinking.</p> <p><strong>Get another perspective</strong></p> <p>“Sometimes it is helpful to share your feelings with others and get an outside perspective,” Cramer says.</p> <p>“Asking questions like ‘Do you think this will likely happen?’ or ‘How do you view this situation?’ can definitely help you stay grounded and question your negative thoughts.”</p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Written by Leslie Finlay. This article first appeared in </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.readersdigest.co.nz/healthsmart/conditions/mental-health/what-is-catastrophising" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reader’s Digest</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </span><a rel="noopener" href="http://readersdigest.innovations.co.nz/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA87V" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">here’s our best subscription offer.</span></a></em></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

Mind

Placeholder Content Image

The surprising reason exercise improves symptoms of Alzheimer’s

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though we already know that physical activity is good for us, new research has discovered that it may have even more benefits for those with Alzheimer’s disease.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A team of researchers have </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.scimex.org/newsfeed/why-exercise-is-beneficial-for-those-with-alzheimers" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">identified</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> a potential explanation for why exercise improves brain health.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Dr Kaitlin Casaletto, the study’s senior author and a neurophysiologist at the University of California’s Memory and Ageing Centre, said the study makes the link between exercise and better brain health via inflammation.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We are starting to show the ‘who of the how’: physical activity related to better cognitive outcomes via reduced brain inflammation, particularly in adults with greater Alzheimer’s disease pathology,” she told </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">OverSixty</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">. “Broadly, our study supports the dynamic</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"> and plastic nature of the brain, even in older adults and even in the context of pathology.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The researchers monitored the activity of microglia - the brain’s immune cells -  in 167 older adults, as well as the levels of activation in brain tissue from deceased patients with Alzheimer’s. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As the brain’s first line of immune defence, the cells activate to remove debris, damaged neurons, and foreign invaders. But, if the cells are too active, they can trigger inflammation, damage neurons, and interrupt signalling in the brain.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This was particularly noticeable in a region of the brain responsible for processing visual information. This area is one of the regions severely impacted by Alzheimer’s disease, resulting in difficulty processing new information and remembering it later.</span></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/JNeurosci?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#JNeurosci</a> | New research from <a href="https://twitter.com/UCSFmac?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@UCSFmac</a> shows physical activity may improve <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Alzheimers?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Alzheimers</a> by lowering brain inflammation. <a href="https://twitter.com/kbcasaletto?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@kbcasaletto</a> et al. show benefits may come through decreased immune cell activation. <a href="https://t.co/ZSgCVfnPCQ">https://t.co/ZSgCVfnPCQ</a> <a href="https://t.co/oSganHTYHj">pic.twitter.com/oSganHTYHj</a></p> — SfN Journals (@SfNJournals) <a href="https://twitter.com/SfNJournals/status/1462844838576017418?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 22, 2021</a></blockquote> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Physical activity was also found to have a pronounced effect in reducing inflammation in people with severe Alzheimer’s.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“For instance, our study suggests that individuals at risk for Alzheimer’s related inflammation may particularly benefit from an exercise regimen,” Dr Casaletto said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But, she said it’s important to understand that exercise “may not work for everyone’s brain health”.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Previous work has made the connection between exercise and reduced risks of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, but Dr Casaletto said the new study is the first to show the same kinds of results in humans.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Many studies show that physical activity relates to better brain and cognitive health. Yet we still do not fundamentally understand the mechanisms linking physical activity to cognition in humans,” said Dr Casaletto.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Ours is the first human data showing that brain inflammation may be a meaningful mechanism.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The researchers also noted that exercise could be used to identify potential treatments.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Our team aims to identify biological targets that link known neuroprotective factors like physical activity to the brain,” Dr Casaletto said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Ideally, if we can ‘bottle’ these biological mechanisms, they could be therapeutic targets for cognitive ageing and Alzheimer’s disease.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The study was published in the </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.jneurosci.org/content/early/2021/11/11/JNEUROSCI.1483-21.2021" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Journal of Neuroscience</span></a></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p>

Mind

Placeholder Content Image

10 funny vintage slang words people should start using again

<p><span>In 1909, a British writer recorded thousands of Victorian slang words to make sure they were never forgotten. Now it's your turn to use them.</span></p> <p><strong>Mutton Shunter</strong></p> <p>Definition: Policeman</p> <p>Usage: “Is the Queen in town or something? There’s mutton shunters on every blasted corner!”</p> <p><strong>Gigglemug</strong></p> <p>Definition: An habitually smiling face</p> <p>Usage: “These Miss Universe contestants are just a bunch of gigglemugs.”</p> <p><strong>Fly Rink</strong></p> <p>Definition: A polished bald head</p> <p>Usage: “Be sure to wear glasses if you go outside; Grandpa’s fly rink is blinding today.”</p> <p><strong>Juggins-Hunting</strong></p> <p>Definition: Looking for a man who will pay for liquor</p> <p>Usage: “Jess forgot all her cash at home, so she’s off juggins-hunting again.”</p> <p><strong>Sauce-box</strong></p> <p>Definition: The mouth</p> <p>Usage: “When my kids won’t stop talking, I give them some chips just to fill their little sauce-boxes.”</p> <p><strong>Bags o' Mystery</strong></p> <p>Definition: A satirical term for sausages, because no man but the maker knows what is in them</p> <p>Usage: “Hope there’s no intestine in these bags o’ mystery; I’m trying to cut down on intestine.”</p> <p><strong>Arf'arf'an'arf</strong></p> <p>Definition: A figure of speech, meaning “drunk”</p> <p>Etymology: Order an “arf-an-arf” (or “half-and-half”) in a London pub and you’ll receive a malty cocktail of half black beer, half ale. Add one more ‘arf of beer to the mix and your mug suddenly runneth over; you, chum, must be arf’arf’an’arf – that is, drunk.</p> <p><span>Usage: “Charlie ordered another Guinness? He’s already arf’arf’an’arf!”</span></p> <p><strong>Gas pipes</strong></p> <p>Definition: Name given to trousers when tight</p> <p>Usage: “I just saw this poor hipster get his gas-pipes stuck in his unicycle spokes and totally eat kerb.”</p> <p><strong>Pumblechook</strong></p> <p>Definition: Human ass</p> <p>Etymology: From Uncle Pumblechook, a character in Dickens’ Great Expectations described as “that basest of swindlers”; greedy, pompous and piggish.</p> <p>Usage: “This fat Pumblechook totally cut me off in his ute – then he gave me a sneer at the Macca’s drive-through.”</p> <p><strong>Row-de-dow</strong></p> <p>Definition: Riot</p> <p>Etymology: A play on “row” (vintage slang for “quarrel”) or “rowdy.” Also spelled, “rowdydow.”</p> <p>Usage: “When the police arrived to break up the Scrabble feud it escalated into a full-on row-de-dow.”</p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Written by Brandon Specktor. This article first appeared in </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.readersdigest.co.nz/true-stories-lifestyle/our-language/10-funny-vintage-slang-words-people-should-start-using-again" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reader’s Digest</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </span><a rel="noopener" href="http://readersdigest.innovations.co.nz/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA87V" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">here’s our best subscription offer.</span></a></em></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

Mind

Placeholder Content Image

EXCLUSIVE: Claudine Ryan talks hormones, PMS and the brain

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If you have ever had your feelings of anger dismissed because you are dealing with fluctuations in hormones - whether that’s around your period, pregnancy-related or due to menopause - you’re not the only one.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While the vast majority of women experience these dips and peaks in hormones without many severe symptoms, the dismissal of symptoms as a side effect of hormones can have severe consequences.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Between 2009 and 2018, suicide was the </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/may/09/the-chemical-question-does-focusing-on-hormones-undermine-mental-healthcare" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">third-highest cause</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> of mortality among women who had recently given birth.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For women entering menopause, the incidence of depression </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/menopause-and-mental-health" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">doubles</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, and those who have experienced mental illness in the past may see their symptoms return.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Claudine Ryan is one half of the duo behind the popular podcast </span><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Ladies, We Need To Talk</span></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">, alongside host and co-creator Yumi Stynes.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Claudine spoke to </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">OverSixty</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> about the pair’s latest book - named after their podcast - which tackles the thorniest of issues relating to women’s health, biology, and sex lives.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In particular, she shared her thoughts on the overlap between hormones, PMS. and mental health, as well as advice for those navigating these issues with friends and family.</span></p> <p><strong>O60: Throughout <em>Ladies, We Need to Talk</em> there’s a core message of opening up conversations on ‘taboo’ topics to improve awareness and help women feel less alone. Do you have particular hopes about how the awareness of and conversations around mental health and hormones will change?</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When it comes to our hormones and mental health, every woman is different. For reasons that aren't totally understood, some of us can really feel the impact of changing levels of certain hormones at certain times during our cycles or at certain times in our lives. So some of us experience really severe hormonal symptoms (severe insomnia, trouble concentrating, depression and even suicidal thoughts), while others find their hormones have no noticeable impact on their mood. [My] version of PMS looks different to Yumi's. But when we share our stories with each other we can start to see that there is a range of different women's experiences and this can help us to place our own somewhere on this spectrum. One hope is that these conversations foster a rich and diverse community of people who understand each other so that fewer of us feel alone or isolated, and also so we have a better understanding of what this spectrum of normal is. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Another hope is that these conversations give women courage to speak out and ask for help when something does seem right for them. We have heard so many stories of women's symptoms being dismissed, or them being what they are living with is in their head. Understanding how your experience fits in with others can help you to know that what is happening for you is real and that if someone isn't listening to you, then you need to find someone who will.  </span></p> <p><strong>O60: In chapter six you both talked about anger and how it surfaces around the same time as other PMS symptoms, how do you feel about the association between anger and other ‘uglier’ emotions with being hormonal?</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It is very infuriating to have your feelings or frustrations dismissed as being purely hormonal. But it is also very helpful to understand that there might be certain times when your mood might be really low or you might be more inclined to feel frustrated by pee on the toilet seat or a sink full of dishes. For some women, just understanding how their hormones may affect their mood is all they need. But for others, knowing their hormones are making them miserable is the first step in figuring out what their options are to get some relief.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It's important to acknowledge, as is the case with many many women's health issues, there needs to be more research for us to better understand the relationship between our hormones and our moods.  </span></p> <p><strong>O60: Do you have any advice for other women struggling with family/friends/partners/colleagues/strangers commenting on their mental health and being hormonal or dealing with PMS?</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You could swear at the person, and that is a legitimate response.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You could explain to them these conditions are recognised by leading women's health experts and that for those who experience symptoms on the more severe end there are treatment options available. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You could take the approach of women's health psychologist Professor Jane Ussher, who's spent decades researching PMS. Over the years many women have told her that when they are on holidays or away from the usual stress and pressures of their lives that they are much less likely to have PMS. But when life is as normal, all the crap they normally put up with just becomes too much. Women tell her that it's their real feelings that are coming out when they get PMS. So for three weeks of a month they can play nice and bottle it all up, but then at that point in their cycle they don't have the energy to keep up this front. These women often then ask those around them to help out a bit more so they don't get so worn out and frustrated.</span></p> <p><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.hardiegrant.com/au/publishing/bookfinder/book/ladies_-we-need-to-talk-by-yumi-stynes/9781743797518" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Ladies, We Need To Talk</span></a></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">, published by Hardie Grant, is now available to purchase.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Supplied</span></em></p>

Mind

Placeholder Content Image

8 ordinary things you don’t realise are messing with your brain

<p><strong>Doors</strong></p> <p><span>Ever walk into a room with some purpose in mind, only to completely forget what that purpose was? Turns out, doors themselves are to blame for these strange memory lapses. Psychologists at the University of Notre Dame have discovered that passing through a doorway triggers what’s known as an event boundary in the mind, separating one set of thoughts and memories from the next. Your brain files away the thoughts you had in the previous room and prepares a blank slate for the new locale.</span></p> <p><strong>Beeps</strong></p> <p><span>If you can’t concentrate during the irritating sound of a truck reversing, blame the brain baffle on an evolutionary glitch. Natural sounds are created from a transfer of energy (say, a stick hitting a drum) and gradually dissipate, and our perceptual system has evolved to use that decay of sound to figure out what made it and where it came from. But beeps don’t typically change or fade away over time, so our brains have trouble keeping up.</span></p> <p><strong>Wide-open spaces</strong></p> <p><span>We walk in circles when we traverse terrain devoid of landmarks, such as the desert. Even though we’d swear we’re walking in a straight line, we actually curve around in loops as tight as 20 metres in diameter. German research from the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics reveals why: with every step a walker takes, a small deviation arises in the brain’s balance (vestibular) or body awareness (proprioceptive) systems. These deviations accumulate to send that individual veering around in ever-tighter circles. But they don’t occur when we can recalibrate our sense of direction, using a nearby building or mountain, for instance.</span></p> <p><strong>Attractiveness</strong></p> <p><span>We say ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, but unfortunately, our brains tend to do just that. In what’s known as the ‘halo effect’, a single positive quality in a person can dupe our brain into thinking that person has many good qualities, even if we don’t know them at all. For instance, when we find someone physically attractive, we may also automatically have the impression that he or she is smart, kind, funny, etc. This is by far the most common example of the ‘halo effect’, to the extent that the effect is also known as ‘the physical attractiveness stereotype’. This has a lot to do with celebrities, and why we feel like we ‘know’ them when we really don’t.</span></p> <p><strong>Being up high</strong></p> <p><span>For many people, being at a certain height, especially for the first time, creates a surreal sensation of detachment. This is known as the ‘breakaway phenomenon’. “You feel as if you’re disconnected from the Earth, literally, even though you’re in a building or an aeroplane,” says Dr James Giordano, a neurology and biochemistry professor at Georgetown University Medical Center. Though some experience this sensation at the top of a tall building, or on a balcony, it’s most commonly felt while flying. This sensation is totally separate from fear of heights; in fact, it makes some people feel very calm and peaceful. “Some people actually enjoy the way that feels; others, it makes them uncomfortable,” says Dr Giordano.</span></p> <p><strong>That one time you ate bad chicken</strong></p> <p><span>If you’ve ever wondered why one bad experience can ruin something for you, blame your brain. A single unpleasant experience with food, in particular, can taint the taste of that food in your mind, even if you actually really enjoy it. This is known as the ‘Garcia Effect’, because of a scientist named Dr John Garcia who tested it on rats. If you experienced nausea or sickness shortly after eating something (whether or not the food itself is what made you sick), you’ll likely develop what’s known as a taste aversion to that food. This triggers your brain to be hesitant about consuming it again, even if it’s a food you love. Unsurprisingly, this occurs frequently with a certain type of alcohol or even a non-alcoholic mixer.</span></p> <p><strong>Arrows</strong></p> <p><span>Though they seem straightforward, arrows have the potential to trip up our brains quite a bit. They can distort our perceptions of distance, direction and length; in fact, two popular optical illusions use arrows to trick the mind. One is the ‘Muller-Lyer illusion’, which takes three lines of equal length and uses arrowheads to make them appear different lengths. The other, the ‘Flanker task’, is more interactive; it shows you a screen with several arrows on it and makes you select the direction that the middle arrow is pointing. (It’s harder than it sounds!) The arrows that are not in the centre are ‘irrelevant stimuli’, distracting your brain by pointing in different directions.</span></p> <p><strong>A bargain</strong></p> <p><span>Salespeople can fool your brain into thinking you want a product you really don’t. According to Dr Deborah Searcy of Florida Atlantic University, retailers use this sneaky trick all the time: they tell you the price of an item and try to get you to buy it. If you say that price is too much, they’ll offer you a lower one. Because your mind has been ‘anchored’ around the higher price, you think you’re getting a great deal, and you’re more likely to buy the item. But, if the salesperson had offered you the lower price right off the bat, chances are you wouldn’t have bought the product. Your brain is duped by the allure of a good deal.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Written by Meghan Jones and Natalie Wolchover. This article first appeared in </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.readersdigest.co.nz/true-stories-lifestyle/science-technology/8-ordinary-things-you-dont-realise-are-messing-with-your-brain" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reader’s Digest</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </span><a rel="noopener" href="http://readersdigest.innovations.co.nz/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA87V" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">here’s our best subscription offer.</span></a></em></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

Mind

Placeholder Content Image

How efficient is the human brain?

<p><span style="font-size: 14px;">What is the difference between human brains and those of other mammals? Potentially, energy efficiency, according to a </span><a style="font-size: 14px;" rel="noopener" href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-04072-3" target="_blank">study</a><span style="font-size: 14px;">, published in </span><em style="font-size: 14px;">Nature.</em></p> <div class="copy"> <p>Neurons in the brain communicate with each other via electrical pulses. These pulses, generated as ions such as potassium and sodium, enter the cell through an ion channel. The channels act as an “on-off” switch by changing shape to alter the flow of the ions, either letting them in and generating an electrical signal, or closing to prevent the signal getting through.</p> <p>Now, a team of researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found that the number of ion channels in the human brain are at a lower density than in other mammals’ brains. They have hypothesised that this has helped human brains become more efficient.</p> <p>The researchers analysed neurons from 10 mammals – the most extensive electrophysical study of its kind to date – and found that bigger neurons lead to more ion channels in a relatively constant ratio of size-to-channels.</p> <p>What this means is that bigger neurons can still handle all the electrical pulses they are bombarded with because they have the ion channel capacity to process the ions. No matter the brain size, the energetic cost to run each mammal’s brain was about the same.</p> <p><strong>The human brain is the exception</strong></p> <p>That is, in every mammal except humans, who had a much lower density of ion channels than expected.</p> <p>“Previous comparative studies established that the human brain is built like other mammalian brains, so we were surprised to find strong evidence that human neurons are special,” says former MIT graduate student Lou Beaulieu-Laroche.</p> <p>Graphical abstract. Created on imgflip by Cosmos.</p> <p>One benefit of a lower density of ion channels may be that less energy is used on pumping ions into neurons, which could then be diverted to other processes, like creating more complicated synaptic connections.</p> <p>“If the brain can save energy by reducing the density of ion channels, it can spend that energy on other neuronal or circuit processes,” says Mark Harnett, an associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences, a member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, and the senior author of the study.</p> <p>“We think that humans have evolved out of this building plan that was previously restricting the size of cortex, and they figured out a way to become more energetically efficient, so you spend less [energy] per volume compared to other species.”</p> <p>In this case, the human brain could run on the same amount of power as other mammal brains but perform more complex procedures with the excess energy diverted from ion channels.</p> <p>Harnett hopes to study where that extra energy is being used and whether there are any specific genes responsible for ion channel density exclusive to humans.</p> <!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --> <img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=172198&amp;title=How+efficient+is+the+human+brain%3F" alt="" width="1" height="1" /> <!-- End of tracking content syndication --></div> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/science/biology/how-efficient-is-the-human-brain/" target="_blank">This article</a> was originally published on <a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/dr-deborah-devis" target="_blank">Deborah Devis</a>. Deborah Devis is a science journalist at Cosmos. She has a Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Science (Honours) in biology and philosophy from the University of Sydney, and a PhD in plant molecular genetics from the University of Adelaide.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p> </div>

Mind

Placeholder Content Image

“Every shift is memorable”: One Ronald McDonald volunteer’s experience

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For sick and injured children, Ronald McDonald Houses provide a place for families to find support when they need it most.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Trisha Crane, a mother of two, grandmother of three, and one of the charity’s longest-serving volunteers, started volunteering 26 years ago after responding to an ad in a local paper.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I’ve always done volunteering and I saw something in the local paper for the (Ronald McDonald) house and decided to sign up,” Trisha told <em>OverSixty</em>.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It seemed like a great idea as it was child-oriented and, as a school teacher, I liked that.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though she now helps out with data entry, Trisha has spent much of her time at Westmead’s House and interacted closely with the families staying there.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It’s very obvious the difference having family close by has for a sick child,” she said. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Families also benefit from talking with people who can relate to the challenges they’re facing.”</span></p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/CVzImrQl6as/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CVzImrQl6as/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">A post shared by RMHC Australia (@rmhcaustralia)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When asked about whether she had a memorable moment during her time as a volunteer, she said: “I don’t have a specific memory but every shift is memorable as I enjoy working with the other volunteers and staff.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">McHappy Day, the fundraiser that supports the Ronald McDonald Houses, directs 100 percent of its funds towards the charity.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With the 30th McHappy Day fast approaching, McDonald’s has launched a new range of silly socks that people can purchase to support the cause.</span></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">who’s ready to do good, feel good &amp; look good in these bad boys? <a href="https://t.co/qNSMQxXteX">pic.twitter.com/qNSMQxXteX</a></p> — McDonald's Australia (@maccas) <a href="https://twitter.com/maccas/status/1450597636910850048?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 19, 2021</a></blockquote> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“McHappy Day is crucial to enabling us to continue to help seriously ill and injured children and their families across Australia,” Trisha said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Funds raised by McDonald’s and its customers through the purchase of Silly Socks supports programs such as Ronald McDonald Houses, Family Rooms, Family Retreats and our National Learning Program, which make a real impact in the lives of families and children in their time of need.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For those considering volunteering their time, Trisha said to take the plunge.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Just come and give volunteering a go!”</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Supplied</span></em></p>

Mind

Placeholder Content Image

The benefits of boredom

<p>Back in 1973 – when the internet, on-demand TV and games consoles were still the stuff of science fiction – the BBC launched a new show to keep kids entertained during the school holidays. Its not-so-snappy full title?<span> </span><em>Why Don’t You Just Switch Off Your Television Set And Go And Do Something Less Boring Instead?</em><span> </span>Children attempted to inspire their peers to try out various activities, such as creating portraits out of staples or rustling up some mini ham and cheese sandwiches.</p> <p>Nowadays, in the age of round-the-clock entertainment, it’s (technically) trickier to be bored. If the show you’re watching has lost its spark, you can select an instant high-octane alternative or amuse yourself by scrolling through social media without even leaving the sofa. But that’s not necessarily a good thing. Feeling disengaged from the task in hand – or simply devoid of stimulation – does have its benefits, according to researchers.</p> <p><strong>Does boredom make us more creative?</strong></p> <p>First and foremost, being bored motivates you to search out something less boring to do. Feeling bored at work, for example, could inspire you to explore a change of career. Or if you decide there’s nothing worth watching on TV, you might choose to switch off and make your own entertainment by taking up a new hobby.</p> <p>This, according to researchers at the University of Central Lancashire in the UK, can explain why the lockdowns of the past two years saw a surge in creativity among people stuck at home. From banana-bread-making to picking up a paintbrush for the first time since childhood, many of us realised there are only so many times you can watch Tiger King on Netflix before you need to find other ways to amuse yourself.</p> <p>But what about those times when you have no choice but to stick with the boring situation – carrying out a mundane task at work or waiting for a bus, for instance? The good news is that the boredom you’re feeling now could spark your creativity and help you come up with some of your best ideas, says a 2019 study published in the<span> </span><em>Academy of Management Discoveries<span> </span></em>journal. People who’d taken part in a boring bean-sorting task later performed better at coming up with creative ideas than another group who’d been given something more interesting to do first.</p> <p><strong>What's the point of daydreaming?</strong></p> <p>Without distractions such as social media and TV to quash those feelings of boredom, we may well fall back on that age-old failsafe: daydreaming. And, despite what parents and teachers may have told you when you were young, daydreaming is good for you. Letting your thoughts wander without the distractions of technology can be a useful way to “allow your mind to unwind, alleviate stress and solve problems, boosting your productivity and creativity in the process,” writes the University of Central Lancashire’s Dr Sandi Mann.</p> <p>In fact, if you find it difficult to stop your mind from straying during boring meetings or tasks, it could be a result of your impressive brain capacity, says a 2019 study from the Georgia Institute of Technology. People who reported more frequent daydreaming scored higher on intellectual and creative ability and had more efficient brains. Put simply, some people seem better equipped than others to focus on more than one thing at a time.</p> <p>Likewise, doodling during a tedious meeting or call can provide just the right amount of stimulation to help you stay alert and pay attention, University of Plymouth researchers have found. People who doodled while listening to a dull, rambling voicemail message were better able to recall details from the call than those who’d simply sat and listened.</p> <p><strong>Are we more easily bored nowadays?</strong></p> <p>Still, why daydream at the bus stop when you can simply scroll through your phone like everyone else? For starters, spending every spare moment staring at a screen can have a well-documented negative effect on your mental wellbeing, sleep quality and eyesight. But that’s not all: over time, it reduces your boredom tolerance levels and means you become less able to think creatively, problem-solve and simply notice what’s going on around you.</p> <p>Ultimately, if we take it for granted that there’ll always be something close at hand to entertain us, we start to lose the ability to entertain others, think creatively and allow our minds to switch off and relax. We stop coming up with new ideas and we’re less motivated to find ways to do something less boring instead. Whisper it: we run the risk of becoming boring ourselves.</p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Written by Jane Murphy. This article first appeared in </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.readersdigest.co.nz/culture/the-benefits-of-boredom" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reader’s Digest</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </span><a rel="noopener" href="http://readersdigest.innovations.co.nz/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA87V" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">here’s our best subscription offer.</span></a></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><em>Image: Getty Images</em></span></p> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

Mind

Placeholder Content Image

When missing children return: how can we avoid adding to Cleo Smith’s trauma?

<p>Four-year-old Cleo Smith was <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/nov/03/cleo-smith-found-first-pictures-of-smiling-girl-as-australian-police-detail-moment-of-rescue" target="_blank">found by Western Australian police earlier this week</a>, 18 days after going missing from a remote campsite.</p> <p>Being taken and removed from one’s family is a significantly traumatic event for any child. It disrupts their entire world.</p> <p>Children are <a href="https://acamh.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1469-7610.2011.02399.x">dependent on their families and attachment figures</a> for their sense of security and support. Sudden loss of these important relationships can result in fear, a sense of abandonment and confusion. Children left alone can become withdrawn and depressed and have little understanding of why this has happened to them.</p> <p>There can be long-term effects, such as memories of the fearful experience, sleep disruption and anxiety. Some children will have difficultly rebuilding their sense of security and trust.</p> <p>As a child psychiatrist who’s researched trauma, I’m interested in how we can ensure such children recover.</p> <p>Family members, the media and the public also need to avoid certain actions or behaviours that could re-traumatise the child.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">"It's one person who has done this horrible thing"<br /><br />WA Police Minister Paul Papalia shares new details about the miracle rescue of missing girl Cleo Smith. <a href="https://t.co/CEAE1U3HFm">pic.twitter.com/CEAE1U3HFm</a></p> — Sunrise (@sunriseon7) <a href="https://twitter.com/sunriseon7/status/1455998352668053507?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 3, 2021</a></blockquote> <p><strong>How can the child recover?</strong></p> <p>The first priority after finding the child is to immediately re-establish a sense of safety and stability, and to reunite them with their family.</p> <p>The most important thing is to avoid intrusive, <a rel="noopener" href="https://bpspsychub.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1348/135532506X156620" target="_blank">probing questioning</a> straight away as this can be frightening and distressing. It’s a normal response for the child to try and not think about what they’ve just been through.</p> <p>They will take their own time before they’re able to share details of their experiences, and will need considerable support and care to do this.</p> <p>Intrusive questioning may re-traumatise the child. For survivors of trauma, being asked to focus on their memories and experiences of fear can be distressing and bring back the terror of the experience, particularly if they’re not ready to think about the events.</p> <p>Police forces have skilled interviewers who understand and avoid this when recovering a child, and perform the interviews gradually.</p> <p>There are open questions about any other sort of trauma Cleo may have experienced, but for now we don’t have any information on this. We might never know all the details and we need to respect the family’s right to privacy.</p> <p>Some children might benefit from counselling, particularly if they have severe anxiety symptoms or have been held for a long time.</p> <p>Children held for a long time often become dependent on their captor for survival, as they <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01926180902754711?journalCode=uaft20" target="_blank">adapt to their situation and attempt to survive</a>. It’s a very strange and traumatising position for the child to be in and may take a long time to recover from.</p> <p>Over time, it’s important for attachment figures such as parents and carers to allow children to express fears in a gentle way.</p> <p>Children may have “disguised anxieties”. They may develop fear about some other thing or event, for example storms or dogs, because they’re <a rel="noopener" href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0829573512468845" target="_blank">expressing anxiety about the traumatic event in a disguised way</a>.</p> <p><strong>Adults should listen, not probe</strong></p> <p>Caregivers need to be <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubpdfs/child-trauma.pdf" target="_blank">guided by the child’s willingness to disclose</a>, and when.</p> <p>The response to trauma varies considerably. Some children tell parents or carers a lot about the experience at first. Others may disclose small details little by little over time, while some may not speak about details for months or years.</p> <p>Parents or carers need to let the child speak at their own pace and be guided by the child’s level of anxiety. The aim is to give the child a safe space to speak to trusted people who can support them.</p> <p>When they do start talking about their experience, adults must listen carefully and validate their feelings. Adults should reassure the child that he or she is safe now. It’s not a good idea to probe.</p> <p>Believing what the child says is crucial.</p> <p><strong>Let’s not get carried away with speculation</strong></p> <p>We don’t know what the long-term consequences for Cleo will be. This will depend on what she’s been exposed to, which we don’t know yet. And we don’t always get a sense of closure – this isn’t as important as working on the best way to support her recovery.</p> <p>The media should avoid premature comment and speculation on what might have occurred. The media currently have no idea what kind of person the suspect is and shouldn’t speculate on his behaviours and motives.</p> <p>It’s also not helpful for the media to focus on extreme ideas about risk to children at the hands of predatory offenders.</p> <p>As the public, we shouldn’t speculate about the circumstances either or prejudge those involved. Police are methodical and thorough in their work and will need time to piece together the story of what may have happened.</p> <p>The local community, and many members of the public, are likely to be anxious and fearful. A missing child strikes at the core of our desire to care for children. This may have negative impacts on community trust and relationships.</p> <p>If this was random act, there’s the potential for ongoing fear. And it’s potentially more scary than the stereotypes we think of, such as a planned attack by a ring of perpetrators. A random attack is harder to make sense of, terrifying and unsettling.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">Missing four-year-old girl Cleo Smith has been found safe and well in a locked house in Carnarvon, WA police say.<br /><br />Here's why missing children cases grip the nation (from the archives): <a href="https://t.co/Ybv7JbjCXD">https://t.co/Ybv7JbjCXD</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/Uni_Newcastle?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Uni_Newcastle</a></p> — The Conversation (@ConversationEDU) <a href="https://twitter.com/ConversationEDU/status/1455646662102241286?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 2, 2021</a></blockquote> <p><strong>Parent's need support, too</strong></p> <p>Cleo’s parents, and any parents in a similar situation, have been through a horrendous ordeal.</p> <p>They have the vital role of helping a child feel safe again, so they also need support to do this.</p> <p>All parents may feel increased anxiety about child safety in the face of this event. Children may also hear about Cleo’s experience and worry this could happen to them. Fear is contagious when such a traumatic event impacts a community.</p> <p>If parents are worried about their child showing trauma or anxiety symptoms, they should speak to GP who can refer to a psychologist or psychiatrist if more support is needed.</p> <p><em>If this article has raised issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.</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; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/171200/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 rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/louise-newman-1753" target="_blank">Louise Newman</a>, Professorial Fellow in Psychiatry, <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722" target="_blank">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com" target="_blank">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/when-missing-children-return-how-can-we-avoid-adding-to-cleo-smiths-trauma-171200" target="_blank">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

Mind

Placeholder Content Image

5 signs you might benefit from therapy

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The decision to seek out professional help for mental health is often a very daunting one, and many tend to put it off for a long time.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Despite the feeling that we may not be having a hard enough time to seek out therapy, or fears associated with talking to another person about our concerns, studies have found that even </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-32/november-2019/it-forced-me-think-different-ways-about-single-session-therapy" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">a single session</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If you’ve been considering seeing a therapist, here are five </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/in-practice/202111/20-signs-youd-benefit-seeing-therapist" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">signs</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that can help you decide.</span></p> <p><strong>1. You think about it a lot</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If you have considered seeing a therapist multiple times but have hesitated, it may be a sign that you want to go but that something is holding you back.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As nerve-wracking as it may be, giving therapy a try will help you end the debate once and for all.</span></p> <p><strong>2. Basic tasks are difficult</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Those struggling with depression or burnout can find it difficult to keep up with tasks like showering, shopping for clothes, deciding what to wear each day, or filling out forms. If this is you, therapy can provide a way to make these tasks less of a struggle. </span></p> <p><strong>3. You struggle to make or keep friends</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Whether you find it easy to make friends but hard to keep them, or you struggle with both making and maintaining friendships, therapy can help. For instance, some people with insecure attachment styles - which develop when we’re young - </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/basics/attachment" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">therapy</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> can act as a way to learn relational skills that can be applied in friendships and relationships.</span></p> <p><strong>4. You’re looking for support</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Whether you’re unsure how to make a big decision or are struggling to cope with a stressful event in your life, therapy can help. Though a therapist won’t give their opinions on what you should do, they </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">can</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> help you figure out what you want to do and lay out all of the pros and cons clearly. Therapy can also help you figure out how to navigate the stressful events that come up and develop coping skills to use in the future. </span></p> <p><strong>5. You’re curious</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Therapy isn’t just for the people who </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">need</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> it. If you’re interested in gaining strategies to use in different areas of your life or you want to get a different perspective on yourself, therapy can be worth trying.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Despite common perceptions about therapy, it doesn’t need to be a long-term commitment or take up a large chunk of time. Since everyone is different, our experiences with therapy will also differ and can involve attending for a long period of time or just a few sessions.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">No matter what is driving you to consider going to a therapist, it doesn’t hurt to take the plunge and try it out.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p>

Mind

Placeholder Content Image

Not spooked by Halloween ghost stories? You may have aphantasia

<p>Halloween movies often feature kids sitting around a campfire sharing gory, spooky stories, trying to get someone to scream in fear.</p> <p>This weekend you might be doing the same – sharing a horror story with friends. You may find one friend doesn’t get scared, no matter how frightening a scene you try to paint in their mind.</p> <p>So why are some people more easily spooked by stories than others? We ran an experiment to find out.</p> <p><strong>Can you see it in your mind?</strong></p> <p>One reason some people are more easily spooked could relate to how well they can visualise the scary scene in their mind.</p> <p>When some people listen to a story they automatically conjure up the scene in their mind’s eye, while others have to focus really hard to create any sort of mental image.</p> <p>A small proportion cannot visualise images at all. No matter how hard they try, they do not see anything in their mind. This inability to visualise is known as aphantasia.</p> <p>Although we have known people vary in their ability to visualise <a rel="noopener" href="https://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Galton/imagery.htm" target="_blank">for many years</a>, the term aphantasia was not coined until <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0010945215001781?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">2015</a>.</p> <p>We don’t yet know exactly how many people have aphantasia. But <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0010945220301404?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">estimates vary</a> at 1–4% of the population.</p> <p><iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KuWSh4n5AiI?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe> <em><span class="caption">Do you have aphantasia?</span></em></p> <p><strong>How scared are you?</strong></p> <p>If the ability to visualise images and scenes in the mind plays a role in how we react to spooky stories, what does that mean for people with aphantasia? How do they react when reading scary stories?</p> <p>We <a rel="noopener" href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rspb.2021.0267" target="_blank">ran a study</a> to find out. We had people sit in the dark and read a number of short stories – not ghost stories, but ones with frightening, hypothetical scenarios.</p> <p>One example involved someone being chased by a shark, another being covered in spiders.</p> <p>As people read these stories, we recorded their fear levels by measuring how much the stories made them sweat.</p> <p>We placed small electrodes on their fingers and ran a tiny electric current from one electrode to the other.</p> <p>When you sweat this allows the electric current to flow from one electrode to the other easier, due to less resistance, and this results in <a rel="noopener" href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1094428116681073" target="_blank">increased skin conductance</a>.</p> <p>This measure can pick up even very small increases in sweat you wouldn’t otherwise notice.</p> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/429220/original/file-20211028-13882-16y7l51.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/429220/original/file-20211028-13882-16y7l51.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="Scared man rowing away from sharks" /></a> <em><span class="caption">Imagine being chased by sharks. Some people can’t conjure up the image in their mind.</span> <span class="attribution"><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/escape-crisis-613248632" target="_blank" class="source">Shutterstock</a></span></em></p> <p>For most people who could conjure up images in their mind, their skin conductance increased when they read these stories. But people with aphantasia didn’t show a significant increase in their skin conductance levels when reading the same scenarios.</p> <p>There was no difference between the two groups when viewing scary pictures. This suggests aphantasic people’s lack of a reaction to these stories wasn’t due to a general dampening of emotional responses.</p> <p>Instead, we concluded the lack of a change in skin conductance in these people with aphantasia is specific to being unable to <em>visualise</em> these fear-inducing stories.</p> <p><strong>What’s going on in the brain?</strong></p> <p>Very little work has been done to measure neural activity in people with aphantasia to give us a firm idea of why they cannot visualise images.</p> <p>One <a rel="noopener" href="https://academic.oup.com/cercorcomms/article/2/2/tgab035/6265046" target="_blank">study</a> shows both the frontal and visual regions of the brain are linked to visualising images. And in people with aphantasia, the connection between these two areas is weaker.</p> <p>Another study found the pattern of activity in visual regions of the brain <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.jneurosci.org/content/37/5/1367.abstract" target="_blank">is correlated</a> with the vividness of the mental images.</p> <p>So any reduction in connectivity between the frontal and visual regions may result in less control over the visual regions. This might lead to the inability to visualise.</p> <p><strong>So what if you have aphantasia?</strong></p> <p>If you have aphantasia, it might just mean reading a <a rel="noopener" href="https://stephenking.com" target="_blank">Stephen King novel</a> is unlikely to ruffle your feathers.</p> <p>Theoretically, remembering fearful experiences might also be less scary. We did not test personal memories in our study, but we hope to look at these in the future.</p> <p>People with aphantasia report their personal memories (<a rel="noopener" href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758%2Fs13421-014-0402-5" target="_blank">autobiographical memories</a>) are <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-65705-7" target="_blank">less vivid</a> and <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0010945220301404?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">detailed</a> than people with visual imagery.</p> <p>People with aphantasia may also be less likely to develop disorders associated with fear memories, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).</p> <p>Another possibility is they still may develop PTSD but it presents <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-65705-7" target="_blank">in a different way</a> to people with visual imagery – without flashbacks. But more research is needed.</p> <p><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/rebecca-keogh-301841" target="_blank">Rebecca Keogh</a>, Research Fellow, Department of Cognitive Science, <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/macquarie-university-1174" target="_blank">Macquarie University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com" target="_blank">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/not-spooked-by-halloween-ghost-stories-you-may-have-aphantasia-170712" target="_blank">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Shutterstock</em></p>

Mind

Placeholder Content Image

Brain strain: neurological effects of COVID and vaccines compared

<p>Concerns about the side-effects of COVID vaccinations have been amplified during the current pandemic by both the vast quantity of data that’s accumulating, and traditional- and social-media coverage.</p> <p>Rare blood clots resulting from first doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca (ChAdOx1nCoV-19) vaccine have been most prominently revealed. As a result there have been changes to the age range of people administered AstraZeneca vaccine, and in a few instances its suspension from national vaccination programs.</p> <p>Now, a nationwide study of 32 million adults in England has revealed an increased, but low, risk of the rare neurological conditions Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) and Bell’s palsy following a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The study also revealed an increased, but low, risk of hemorrhagic stroke following a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech (BNT162b2) vaccine.</p> <p>However, the research, <a rel="noopener" href="/t%20%20https:/doi.org/10.1038/%20s41591-021-01556-7" target="_blank">published</a> in <em>Nature Medicine</em>, also revealed a substantially higher risk of seven neurological outcomes, including GBS, after a positive SARS-CoV-2 test.</p> <p>“Crucially, we found that the risk of neurological complications from [COVID] infection was substantially higher than the risk of adverse events from vaccinations in our population,” the authors wrote. “[F]or example, 145 excess cases versus 38 excess cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome per 10 million exposed in those who had a positive SARS-CoV-2 test and [AstraZeneca]-19 vaccine, respectively.”</p> <blockquote> <p>“The risks of adverse neurological events following SARS-CoV-2 infection are much greater than those associated with vaccinations”</p> </blockquote> <p>Cosmos has <a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/adverse-reactions-guillain-barre-tts-and-the-fine-mesh-net/" target="_blank">reported</a> on the extraordinarily fine-mesh approach to monitoring vaccine side-effects in Australia, which as of early September had been unable to establish a clear link between GBS and AstraZeneca shots. All Australians vaccinated for COVID thus far have received one of the two vaccines examined in the new research, and their efficacy has been widely confirmed.</p> <p>The study – a collaboration between several English and Scottish institutions – made its findings among English adults, which was then replicated in an independent national cohort of more than three million Scottish people.</p> <p>The authors anticipate that these results will inform risk–benefit evaluations for vaccine programs as well as clinical decision-making and resource allocation for these rare neurological complications. They conclude their findings are likely to be of relevance to other countries, but that more studies need to be done.</p> <p>“We believe that these findings are likely to be of relevance to other countries using these vaccines and it would be useful to replicate these results in similarly large datasets internationally,” wrote the authors, in conclusion.</p> <p>“Importantly, the risks of adverse neurological events following SARS-CoV-2 infection are much greater than those associated with vaccinations, highlighting the benefits of ongoing vaccination programs.”</p> <!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --> <p><img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=170617&amp;title=Brain+strain%3A+neurological+effects+of+COVID+and+vaccines+compared" alt="" width="1" height="1" /></p> <!-- End of tracking content syndication --> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/covid/side-effects-of-covid-and-vaccines/" target="_blank">This article</a> was originally published on <a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/cosmos-editors" target="_blank">Cosmos</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Wikimedia Commons</em></p> </div>

Mind

Placeholder Content Image

COVID-19 often comes with a side of “brain fog”

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A new study has found that a large number of people infected with COVID-19 have suffered from poorer memory and shorter attention spans months after recovering.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Researchers from New York’s Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai studied over 700 patients who tested positive to COVID-19, asking them to complete several tasks several months after they were first infected.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The tasks tested their cognitive function using “well-validated neuropsychological measures”, including their attention, working memory, memory recall and processing speed.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The team found a “relatively high” number of patients who experienced cognitive impairment after contracting the virus.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">They reported that 133 patients’ brains were slower, 118 had shorter attention spans, and 170-178 had “slipperier” memories. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Patients who were hospitalised were also more likely to have impaired attention spans, and memory encoding and recall, in comparison to a group of participants who were outpatients and had a less severe reaction to being infected with COVID-19.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The researchers said that the findings were consistent with early reports of ‘brain fog’ among COVID-19 patients.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The association of COVID-19 with executive function raises key questions regarding patients’ long-term treatment,” the researchers wrote in the study, published in </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2785388" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">JAMA Network Open</span></a></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With a high number of patients experiencing these symptoms, the team proposed that future work could study the underlying mechanisms causing these symptoms to occur, as well as ways for patients to rehabilitate and recover.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Our findings suggest that a substantial proportion of patients may experience cognitive problems several months after COVID-19, which can contribute to significant functional disability,” Dr Jacqueline Becker, a clinical neuropsychologist and first author of the study, told </span><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Over60</span></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Patients who are concerned should speak to their primary care physicians and perhaps request a referral to a neuropsychologist. It will be important to monitor any changes over time, as well as to rule out other potentially reversible causes that may be contributing to their cognitive dysfunction.”  </span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p>

Mind

Placeholder Content Image

Trolls really are just angry souls

<p><span style="font-size: 14px;">Words don’t come easy. But anger does. Research suggests it’s not the anonymity of the internet that excites hostility. Instead, being obnoxious is usually already well and truly entrenched in an online troll.</span></p> <div class="copy"> <p>A <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/american-political-science-review/article/abs/psychology-of-online-political-hostility-a-comprehensive-crossnational-test-of-the-mismatch-hypothesis/C721597EEB77CC8F494710ED631916E4" target="_blank">study</a> published last weekend by the journal <em>American Political Science Review</em> aimed to pin down differences in online and offline behaviour, based on surveys of more than 8000 US and Danish subjects.</p> <p>Common excuses for social-media and chat-room angst include a loss of empathy through the lack of body-language feedback, the minimal context conveyed by raw text, and reduced inhibitions through responding from a safe, familiar place.</p> <p>“There are many psychological reasons why we might have a harder time controlling our temper online,” says lead author Alexander Bor. “In the end, personality differences turn out to be a much stronger driver of online hostility.”</p> <p>Put simply, the study’s statistics suggest online trolls are already trolls long before they get behind a keyboard. They turn out to be just as hostile in face-to-face debates.</p> <p>And that has implications for troll slayers.</p> <p>“We cannot remove online hate through education because it is not born out of ignorance,” says the Danish postdoc student. “Hostile people know that their words hurt, and that is why they use them.”</p> <p>But Macquarie University Department of Indigenous Studies professor Bronwyn Carlson says online trolls aren’t that two dimensional, though personality does play a key role.</p> <p>“It is not as simple as some people are more aggressive or assertive and others are not,” she says.</p> <p>For example, racists can express their views through aggressive online trolling, but they also can “remain friendly while they continue making racist comments or ‘help’ us see the ‘great things’ Western civilisation has done for us”.</p> <p>“It is not always the case that they remain anonymous, either – some, and indeed many, are happy to have it known who they are, and they stand by their views.”</p> <p>Flinders University digital technology security and governance researcher Dr Zac Rogers says the study reinforces the danger posed by amplified trollish voices, and how such “useful idiots” can be exploited.</p> <p>“Anger drives responses,” he says. “That means more clicks. That means more revenue. Social media and search algorithms have long since discovered this and actively promote it.”</p> <p>Feeding trolls is big business. And angry trolls make useful political and marketing tools.</p> <p>Anger draws the attention of profit-seeking algorithms, Dr Rogers says. So the more intense a gathering of trolls, the further their voice – and message – gets propelled.</p> <p>“But we need to be wary of any suggestions social media is only holding a mirror up to society,” he says. “The internet serves as an automated filter and funnel. It is an amplification mechanism that is highly distorting of the thing it reflects.”</p> <p>Bor agrees. “To end online hate, we need to decrease the visibility and reach of those who are hateful. The alternative is that many people will be deterred from participating in online discussions. This is a democratic problem, given that social media play a larger and larger role in political processes.”</p> <!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --> <img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=163543&amp;title=Trolls+really+are+just+angry+souls" alt="" width="1" height="1" /> <!-- End of tracking content syndication --></div> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/people/trolls-really-are-just-angry-souls/" target="_blank">This article</a> was originally published on <a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/jamie-seidel" target="_blank">Jamie Seidel</a>. Jamie Seidel is a freelance journalist based in Adelaide.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p> </div>

Mind

Placeholder Content Image

Orchestra brings joy to people with dementia

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">An orchestra in Manchester is offering free music therapy workshops to people with dementia based in an unusual location - a monastery.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Manchester Camerata have delivered a program called Music in Mind since 2012, with its nine musicians and two music therapists delivering weekly music therapy sessions to 20 local aged care homes.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7845044/music-dementia1.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/5dad496ff0bc4f3da69545d44a34b053" /></span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Manchester Camerata have been providing music therapy to those with dementia for the last nine years. Image: Manchester Camerata</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">After COVID-19 saw the team pivot to an online offering, they returned to in-person sessions inside the 149-year-old Gorton Monastery as the UK eased health restrictions.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">During the weekly sessions, the musicians share their knowledge, techniques, and resources with those caring for people with dementia so they can continue to use music therapeutically at home.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Our new music cafe offers such a fantastic and vital opportunity for all at-home carers to make new friends and learn new life-enhancing skills,” Lizzie Hoskin, Head of Camerata in the Community, </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.itv.com/news/granada/2021-09-15/manchester-camerata-runs-weekly-music-sessions-for-people-with-dementia" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">said</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We are very proud to be able to make this service possible, especially for those who’ve been isolating because of the pandemic and have spent so much time apart with little or no support.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">David Tollington, a french horn player in the orchestra, </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-england-manchester-58595926" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">said</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> the sessions show “the power of music” for those with dementia.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">He said some people taking part don’t “remember what they have had for breakfast but they remember the entire lyrics to a song”.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When it comes to music and memory, it can have a range of </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://practicalneurology.com/articles/2017-june/music-and-dementia-an-overview" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">positive effects</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> on those diagnosed with dementia.</span></p> <p><a rel="noopener" href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24009169/" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Some studies</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> have shown that listening to music or singing in music therapy sessions can improve an individual’s general cognition, and their ability to pay attention.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Singing has also been shown to evoke remote memories, resulting in people being better able to recall short stories as well as the names of children and friends.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Manchester Camerata</span></em></p>

Mind

Placeholder Content Image

Physical symptoms linked to genetic risk of depression

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">People who experience physical symptoms such as chronic pain, fatigue and migraines are also more likely to have a higher genetic risk of clinical depression, according to a new study.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Researchers from the University of Queensland collaborated with the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital to conduct a new study published in </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/article-abstract/2783096" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">JAMA Psychiatry</span></a></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">They analysed data from over 15,000 volunteers, who provided information about their mental health history, depression symptoms, and a DNA sample.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The team found that participants who had a higher genetic risk of developing clinical depression were more likely to experience additional physical symptoms.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Dr Enda Byrne, a senior research fellow in psychiatric genetics and one of the researchers involved, said the study aimed to improve understanding of the genetic risks of depression and how other symptoms can be used to aid diagnosis.</span></p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7845012/depression1.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/e08ca3fc9f134a3c8fb3556dde363b83" /></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Dr Enda Byrnes, the senior author of the latest study on depression and genetic risk. Image: The University of Queensland</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“A large proportion of people with clinically-diagnosed depression present initially to doctors with physical symptoms that cause distress and can severely impact on people’s quality of life,” </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.scimex.org/newsfeed/genetic-risk-for-clinical-depression-linked-to-physical-symptoms" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">he said</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Our research aimed to better understand the biological basis of depression and found that assessing a broad range of symptoms was important.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We wanted to see how genetic risk factors based on clinical definitions of depression differed - from those based on a single question to those based on a doctor’s consultation about mental health problems.”</span></p> <p><strong>Genetic risks of depression, explained</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Many different factors can contribute to the onset of depression, and there is strong evidence to suggest that genetics can affect the likelihood of developing the mental illness.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Individuals can be predisposed to developing depression if someone in their family has been diagnosed. If a person’s biological parent has been diagnosed with clinical depression, their genetic risk of developing the illness sits at </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/1-causesofdepression.pdf" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">about 40 percent</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, with the other 60 percent coming from factors in their environment such as stress and age.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Previous studies have also examined the role genetics plays in depression, but Dr Byrne said it can be difficult to find genetic risk factors that are specific to clinical depression.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Previous genetic studies have included participants who report having seen a doctor for worries or tension - but who may not meet the ‘official’ criteria for a diagnosis of depression,” he said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The researchers also stressed the importance of using a large number of samples in order to identify the risk factors for clinical depression but not for other definitions of depression.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It is also linked to higher rates of somatic symptoms - that is, physical symptoms that cause distress and can severely impact on people’s quality of life,” Dr Byrne said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Our results highlight the need for larger studies investigating the broad range of symptoms experienced by people with depression.”</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p>

Mind

Placeholder Content Image

The psychology of COVID compliance

<p><span style="font-size: 14px;">A study by Australian and Canadian researchers has identified some common psychological features of people who don’t follow COVID-19 restrictions or advice. It’s a diverse bunch, but in general, the COVID non-compliant are less likely to be cooperative and considerate, less willing to learn new information, but more extroverted.</span></p> <div class="copy"> <p>They’re also more likely to be male, and less likely to get their news from official sources.</p> <p><a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0255268" target="_blank">Published</a> in <em>PLOS One, </em>the study analysed results from an online survey of 1575 people in Australia, Canada, the UK and the US, taken in April and May 2020. Participants each spent 30–40 minutes answering questions relating to COVID attitudes and beliefs, as well as questions around personality, cognitive ability, and demographic information.</p> <p>“It was very interesting to see that people openly talked about planning for the next week, going to visit a friend or family – something which was strongly discouraged,” says Associate Professor Sabina Kleitman, lead author on the paper and researcher in psychology at the University of Sydney.</p> <p>Overall, around 90% of the participants were compliant with their current COVID restrictions. This varied very slightly from country to country – with 82% compliance among US residents, 88% in Australia and 94% in both Canada and the UK.</p> <p>“It was a quite a remarkable consistency at the time,” says Kleitman.</p> <p>“Now it could have changed completely, because that was during the first wave of the pandemic and the nations were very similar [in COVID restrictions]. Now they’re wildly apart.”</p> <p>The researchers divided results into groups based on attitudes towards COVID, and compliance.</p> <p>“It was a surprise to us to see that the non-compliant, they’re not the youngest,” says Kleitman.</p> <p>The least compliant group had a mean age of 29.1 – with a wide variation across the sample. They were cognitively similar to the compliant, but had a few personality differences – including being more self-interested, and less open to new information.</p> <p>“We did not find any differences between groups in actual metrics of intelligence and decision making we employed in the study, but we found the differences in <em>intellect</em>: the openness to new experiences personality dimension,” says Kleitman.</p> <p>The non-compliant were less worried about COVID, but not less worried in general – they were just as likely to be anxious about non-COVID things as their compliant counterparts.</p> <p>“We also thought neuroticism would play a role,” says Kleitman. “We thought people who are more predisposed to general worries and anxieties might be driving the compliance.</p> <p>“In our study [it] did not. Instead, it was just worries about COVID which separated these two groups.”</p> <p>Kleitman says that while lots has happened between April 2020 and now, the research has potential implications for messaging around COVID restrictions – particularly the tight rules currently in place in Greater Sydney, which aim to keep the Delta outbreak in check.</p> <p>“At the moment, our message is beautiful: we are all in it together,” she says. “It’s absolutely right, but is it reaching a non-compliant group who prioritize self-interest? I don’t think so.”</p> <p>The non-compliant are also less likely to use official sources and traditional media for their information, so Kleitman suggests other methods need to be used to get the word out.</p> <p>“I’m not saying that the message needs to change, but we need some additional messages, and perhaps we need additional mechanisms for delivering them.</p> <p>“Perhaps through a trusted family doctor talking on community radio stations, and other community leaders discussing the dangers of being infected and spreading it to their loved ones, and benefits of compliance, including vaccination; perhaps through the creative use of social media.”</p> <p>She adds that financial support is critical for increasing compliance. “Business and people affected by lockdown need the government’s support not to lose their livelihoods.</p> <!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --> <img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=160465&amp;title=The+psychology+of+COVID+compliance" alt="" width="1" height="1" /> <!-- End of tracking content syndication --></div> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/psychology-covid-compliance/" target="_blank">This article</a> was originally published on <a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/ellen-phiddian" target="_blank">Ellen Phiddian</a>. Ellen Phiddian is a science journalist at Cosmos. She has a BSc (Honours) in chemistry and science communication, and an MSc in science communication, both from the Australian National University.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p> </div>

Mind

Placeholder Content Image

Just two minutes of “doom-scrolling” can worsen your mood

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Just two minutes of exposure to COVID-19 content can leave you feeling less optimistic and feeling worse, according to new research.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A team of scientists from the UK and Canada exposed 1000 participants to COVID news, COVID-related acts of kindness, or nothing at all, to determine whether negative news or kind acts would affect mood.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When compared to the group exposed to nothing at all, those who were exposed to COVID-related news experienced an “immediate and significant” reduction in happiness.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The team found that this drop in mood could occur after just two to four minutes.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As for those who consumed content about COVID-related acts of kindness, the study found they didn’t experience the negative consequences.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The researchers, led by psychologist Dr Kathryn Buchanan, claim that exposure to negative content can be particularly problematic on social media as they make “passive consumption of news almost unavoidable”.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Even a few minutes of exposure to COVID-related news on social media can ruin a person’s mood,” the team wrote.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Given that many people spend five to 10 times the amount of time interacting with COVID-related news each day, this likely offers a conservative estimate of the emotional toll.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">They also argued that additional work would be needed to confirm that the effect would be felt after exposure to content about other large-scale threats, such as climate change.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The study, published in </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0257728" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">PLOS One</span></a></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">, also had some advice for those looking to avoid these negative effects.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The team offered several solutions: the increase in positive stories produced by media outlets, seeking out positive content, or engaging in other activities that can bolster happiness.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">They concluded: “We would all do well to be mindful of these effects and consider balancing our doom-scrolling with some kindness-scrolling.”</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p>

Mind

Placeholder Content Image

Brain implant helps woman’s severe depression

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A woman battling severe depression has had a life-changing experience after she received a personalised brain implant.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It’s like my lens on the world changed,” </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.sciencenews.org/article/brain-implant-severe-depression-activity-stimulation?utm_source=Editors_Picks&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=editorspicks101021" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">said Sarah</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, the research volunteer who received the implant.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though the device was tailored specifically for Sarah’s brain and may not work as a treatment for others, psychiatrist and neural engineer Alik Widge says it is significant because it serves as a way to study how brain activity changes during depression.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A team of researchers from the University of California implanted temporary wire electrodes into Sarah’s brain, allowing them to monitor the brain activity that corresponded to her depression symptoms.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For Sarah, a fast brain wave called a gamma wave appeared in her amygdala, a part of the brain involved in emotions, that was associated with her symptoms.</span></p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7844766/sarah-brain1.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/08625f274e4445b3b116fa203d69817b" /></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Maurice Ramirez / UCSF</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The team then worked to uncover a way to interrupt the signal, and identified a potential area to target: the ventral capsule/ventral striatum (VC/VS).</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When they applied tiny jolts of electrical currents to the area, Sarah’s mood improved.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We could learn the road map of Sarah’s brain in a way that we could really improve her depression symptoms,” Katherine Scangos, an associate professor in psychiatry, said in a news briefing in September.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While the researchers were mapping her brain, Sarah would feel joy when the right spot was stimulated.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I laughed out loud,” she said in the briefing.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“This was the first time I had spontaneously laughed and smiled where it wasn’t faked or forced in five years.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Since the initial experiment, surgeons implanted a more permanent device into her brain.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The device was programmed to detect when the gamma signals in Sarah’s amygdala reached high levels and respond by sending a jolt of electricity to her VC/VS.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The stimulation was calibrated so Sarah wouldn’t feel the jolts, but she said they would leave her feeling more energetic.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“As time goes on, it’s been this virtuous cycle, a spiral upwards,” she said. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Everything has gotten easier and easier.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The research describing the technology used to make Sarah’s first implant was published in </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-021-01480-w" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Nature Medicine</span></a></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">, and revealed that the effects Sarah felt occurred over two months.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The approach required a lot of sophisticated technology, including imaging and machine learning technology.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Helen Mayburg, a neurologist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, cautioned that its complex nature may make it difficult to turn into a wider treatment.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But, the results contain information that is valuable to those looking to understand the effect of depression on the brain and how it can be changed.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">She said, “What we all want to know is, ‘How does this work?’”</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Jon Lok / UCSF</span></em></p>

Mind