Posts tagged with "ADHD"

Drinking even a little alcohol while pregnant may change the shape of a baby’s face

March 13, 2023

How much alcohol a mother drinks before and during pregnancy could determine the shape of her child’s face, a new study has determined. According to researchers at Erasmus Medical Centre in The Netherlands, pregnant women who imbibe just one medium glass of wine (175ml) or one 12-ounce beer a week could change their child’s future appearance, reports Study Finds.


They add that the new findings are particularly illuminating, because a child’s face shape can be an indication of health and developmental problems. If a fetus is exposed to alcohol, the child may be left with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). This is a combination of developmental deficits, neurological impairment, and recognizably abnormal facial development.


Common changes in facial features can include a turned-up nose tip, shortened nose, turned-out chin, or a turned-in lower eyelid. Health-related symptoms include cognitive impairment, ADHD, learning difficulties, memory problems, behavioral problems, and speech and language delays. 


FASD is already known to be consequence of a mother’s drinking habits during pregnancy, with a particular link to heavy drinking. However, until now, little was known about the effect of low alcohol consumption on children’s facial development and their future health. 


“We found a statistically significant association between prenatal alcohol exposure and face shape in the nine-year-old children. The more alcohol the mothers drank, the more statistically significant changes there were. The most common traits were turned-up nose tip, shortened nose, turned-out chin and turned-in lower eyelid,” says study first author and PhD student Xianjing Liu, part of the group that developed the AI algorithm.


“Among the group of mothers who drank throughout pregnancy, we found that, even if mothers drank very little during pregnancy, less than 12g a week, the association between alcohol exposure and children’s facial shape could be observed. This is the first time an association has been shown at such low levels of alcohol consumption.”

“I would call the face a ‘health mirror’ as it reflects the overall health of a child. A child’s exposure to alcohol before birth can have significant adverse effects on its health development and, if a mother regularly drinks a large amount, this can result in fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, FASD, which is reflected in children’s faces,” adds Gennady Roshchupkin, assistant professor and leader of the Computational Population Biology group at the Erasmus Medical Centre.


Researchers used artificial intelligence and deep learning to discover this link. They analyzed 3D images of children taken at the ages of nine and 13. There were just over 3,000 images of nine-year-olds and almost 2,500 images of 13-year-olds.


The children were part of the Generation R Study in The Netherlands, an ongoing population-based study of pregnant women and their children from fetal life onwards. The babies were born between January 2006 and April 2009.


“The face is a complex shape and analyzing it is a challenging task. 3D imaging helps a lot, but requires more advanced algorithms to do this,” says Professor Roshchupkin. “For this task, we developed an AI-based algorithm, which takes high-resolution 3D images of the face and produce 200 unique measurements or ‘traits.’ We analyzed these to search for associations with prenatal alcohol exposure and we developed heat maps to display the particular facial features associated with the mothers’ alcohol consumption.”


The mothers filled out questionnaires in early, mid, and late pregnancy to find out how much alcohol they drank. Researchers then divided the women into three groups: mothers who didn’t drink before or during pregnancy; those who drank during the three months before becoming pregnant, but stopped when they became pregnant; and women who drank when they were pregnant.


This final group included those who only drank during the first trimester of pregnancy and those who continued to drink throughout the entire pregnancy. The nine-year-olds showed a significant link between the change in their face shape and their mothers’ history of drinking.

The children of those who drank during the first trimester but stopped and those who continued to drink were very similar, according to the findings. The results also show that the first three months of pregnancy were the most influential when it comes to the effects of alcohol consumption. The association between alcohol consumption and face shape weakened in the older children.


“It is possible that as a child ages and experiences other environmental factors, these changes may diminish or be obscured by normal growth patterns. But that does not mean that alcohol’s effect on the health will also disappear. Therefore, it is crucial to emphasize that there is no established safe level of alcohol

consumption during pregnancy and that it is advisable to cease drinking alcohol even before conception to ensure optimal health outcomes for both the mother and the developing fetus,” Professor Roshchupkin concludes.


The team notes that their study, published in the journal, Human Reproduction, cannot definitively prove that alcohol consumption causes the changes in face shape, only that there is an association with it.


Research contact: @StudyFinds

Do you have an addictive personality, or just a healthy enthusiasm?

February 24, 2020

Some people cannot stop tweeting; others stream endless episodes of a favorite TV series, drink gallons of coffee each week; bet on competitive sports;  cover themselves with tattoos, jockey for position on video games, or visit tanning salons. While they may not be taking opioids, they still might be “addicted.”

But is there such a thing as an addictive personality? The informal answer is yes, according to the American Addiction Centers—one of the largest networks of rehab facilities nationwide.

Indeed, the rehabilitation experts describe “addictive personality” as an informal term that links particular personality traits to a higher risk of addiction or other problematic behaviors—such as drug abuse, cigarette smoking, gambling, or even constant social media use—according to a report by MindyBodyGreen 

“The term is used colloquially to refer to people who have tendencies that appear to lead to addiction-like behaviors,” says George Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

“Addictive personality” is a term often used in association with alcoholism, but you can also feel addicted to other things, like certain activities, people, foods, or physical objects. According to J. Wesley Boyd, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School’s Center for Bioethics, behaviors like gambling, frequent social media use, or even video gaming can also be addictive.

“For people who are addicted to these behaviors—and even those who just derive intense enjoyment from them—engaging in these behaviors can result in the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is the final common pathway of basically every drug of abuse,” Dr. Boyd told MindyBodyGreen.

He also notes that you can even be addicted to another person in a dating relationship because of this neurochemical response. That said, an unhealthy addiction is very different from healthy enthusiasm.

“Being addicted to something means it has taken over your life and that you are sacrificing important things in your life in service of the addiction,” says Boyd. Koob describes addiction similarly as “being stuck in a cycle in which a person binges on a substance, feels discomfort when the substance wears off, and is preoccupied with procuring and using the substance again.” (And again, this doesn’t apply only to physical substances—it can also be behaviors or experiences.)

On the flip side, “enthusiasm means that you might love something and even that you might look forward to it much of the time, but you are not and will not compromise basic important elements in your life,” Boyd says. 

Some experts believe that the term “addicted” is used too loosely to explain behaviors that are closer to enthusiasm, so Boyd uses exercise as an example of this distinction: An enthusiastic exerciser will look forward to workouts but probably won’t work out when they’re sick, he says. An exercise “addict,” on the other hand, might continue exercising even when they have the flu, despite adverse outcomes. 

“There are definitely individuals who are prone to become addicted in various ways,” Boyd says, noting that addiction is often a combination of both genetics and the environment. “Some of this is based on personal history, but much of it is determined by having a family history of addiction.”

According to MindBodyGreen, people who are at a higher-than-average risk for addiction may have some of the following markers:

  • A close family member with an addiction. Boyd says individuals born to parents who have an addiction are more likely to become addicted themselves, and lots of research backs this up. Overall, it appears that genetic heritability affects addiction by between 40% and 70%—but Koob is careful to note that this genetic component comes from many different pathways, and the likelihood of developing an addiction is due to both the environment and your genetics.
  • An OCD diagnosis. Several other disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, are more likely to co-occur with addiction.
  • Impulsive tendencies and trouble self-regulating. A study about video game addiction found that impulsive people might be more prone to developing an addiction.
  • Low self-esteem. For certain people, low self-esteem also appears to be associated with a higher risk for developing an addiction, according to the study about video gamers.
  • ADHD. A sibling study conducted in 1997 found certain people with ADHD may be more likely to develop substance use disorders, and more recent studies have found that ADHD and substance use disorders tend to co-occur in the same patients.
  • Social anxiety. People who feel lonely and anxious during social events are more likely to develop problematic internet use tendencies, according to a 2007 study. This may be because scrolling the internet can feel soothing in the moment, which helps to reduce overall feelings of anxiety or discomfort.
  • A traumatic history. Koob says people who have a history of abuse or trauma may be more likely to initiate substance abuse in order to reduce their discomfort.

Again, Koob is careful to note, “While there are tendencies that increase the risk of a substance use disorder, they don’t comprise a specific personality type, such as an addictive personality.”

Research contact: @mindbodygreen


Weight and see: Can heavier blankets cure insomnia?

August 20, 2018

A growing number of people who cannot seem to get enough shuteye are looking for a better night’s sleep under a weighted blanket. These trendy blankets are filled with pellets, balls, or chains, which give them their heft. Fans of the blankets say the pressure feels like a firm hug, giving new meaning to the word “comforter,” according to an August 17 report by Psychology Today.

The idea has intuitive appeal. It could explain why some people prefer to sleep under a heavy blanket even in warm weather. Scientific research on weighted blankets is limited, however. Here’s what is known—and what isn’t—about how well the blankets work for easing insomnia in adults.

Perhaps the best evidence to date comes from a Swedish study published in 2015 in the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders. Thirty-one adults with chronic insomnia were recruited by the academic researchers to participate in monthlong investigation. Their sleep was tracked for one week with their usual bedding, then two weeks with a weighted blanket, and then one more week with their usual bedding again.

A full 80% of the subjects said they liked the weighted blanket. Those in this group slept longer and spent less time awake in the middle of the night while using the weighted blanket, sleep testing showed. Study participants also said they found it easier to settle down to sleep with the weighted blanket. What’s more, they reported getting better sleep and feeling more refreshed the next morning.

The theory behind weighted blankets is that they may work, in part, by providing firm, deep pressure stimulation. “The pressure provides a reassuring and cocooning feeling,” says study coauthor Gaby Badre, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Gothenburg and medical director of the sleep SDS Kliniken (sleep disorder clinic), also in Gothenburg, Sweden.

In addition, Badre says that the weighting material inside the blanket produces a lighter, stroking-like tactile sensation when you move. “This tactile stimulation, amplified by movements, even if small, may be the equivalent of a caress,” says Badre. It may stimulate the release of neurotransmitters and affect nervous system activity in ways that decrease overarousal and anxiety.

Further evidence on weighted blankets comes from research in kids with various mental health concerns. One study performed in Denmark looked at 42 children (ages 8 to 13)—half of whom had attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The children’s sleep was tracked by sleep testing and parent diaries for four weeks, including two weeks of using a weighted blanket. For kids with ADHD, the weighted blanket reduced the time it took to fall asleep and the number of middle-of-the-night awakenings to a level comparable to children without ADHD.

Other research, conducted in the United Kingdom, among 73 young people (ages 5 to 16) with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and severe sleep problems compared a weighted blanket to an identical blanket without the extra weight. Based on sleep testing and parent diaries, the weighted blanket didn’t improve their sleep. Yet kids and parents preferred the weighted blanket. They may have been picking up on a benefit the researchers didn’t measure. But because they could tell which blanket was heavier, they may also have been swayed by stories on social media and in the press touting weighted blankets for kids with ASD.

For now, Psychology Today reports, there are no clear answers about the benefits of weighted blankets for people with sleep issues. “There is much more research needed in this regard,” says Courtney Golding, Ph.D., a sleep psychologist at Spectrum Health Sleep Medicine in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Still, a blanket that hugs you all night long sounds awfully nice. And some experts say it’s plausible that weighted blankets could help fend off sleeplessness. “Given that insomnia is frustrating, it can lead toanxiety related to sleep (or lack thereof) even in individuals who are not typically anxious,” says Golding.

If you’re thinking about buying a weighted blanket for yourself or another adult, Badre says it should generally be a bit more than 10% of your body weight. He notes that people vary in exactly how heavy they like the blanket to be. If possible, try before you buy to find what’s comfortable for you.

Of course, the blanket should never be so heavy that it restricts your movement or is difficult for you to manage. To be on the safe side, elderly individuals and those with health concerns should talk with their health care provider before trying a weighted blanket. This type of blanket may not be appropriate for people with breathing difficulties, circulatory problems, or temperature regulation issues.

Make sure the weight is evenly distributed throughout the whole blanket. Badre adds, “It is important that the blanket does not increase the temperature of the bedding. The fabric should dissipate heat easily.”

Research contact: @lindawandrews