Posts tagged with "Study"

Bitter pills: High dementia risk linked to category of prescription drugs called anticholinergics

June 27, 2019

Prescription pills that many people take for what ails them actually may be putting them at risk for dementia, results of a study conducted by the UK’s University of Nottingham, Aldermoor Health Centre, and University of Oxford have demonstrated.

The drugs—anticholinergics—are widely prescribed for such conditions as  urinary incontinence, overactive bladder, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, depression and psychosis, gastrointestinal conditions, and the involuntary muscle movements associated with Parkinson’s disease. Examples include atropine, bentropine mesylate, clidinium, dicylomine, oxybutynin, scopolamine, solifenacin, and tiotroplum—but there are many more.

Anticholinergic drugs are used to block the action of acetylcholine—a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, that transfers signals between certain cells to affect your body functions, according to Healthline.

The investigation—published on June 24 in the Journal of the American Medical Association–Internal Medicinefound that patients over the age of 55 who took anticholinergic medication each day for more than three years had a 50% greater risk of developing dementia.

“This study provides further evidence that doctors should be careful when prescribing certain drugs that have anticholinergic properties,” Tom Dening, one of the authors and head of the Center for Dementia at the University of Nottingham, said in a press release. “However, it’s important that patients taking medications of this kind don’t just stop them abruptly, as this may be much more harmful. If patients have concerns, then they should discuss them with their doctor to consider the pros and cons of the treatment they are receiving.”

According to a report by Newsweek, the researchers analyzed medical data on nearly 59,000 people with dementia, which they collected between January 2004 and January 2016. Of the records they analyzed, the average age of patients was 82 and about 63% of them were women.

Approximately 57% of the patients in the study received a prescription for at least one strong anticholinergic drug, one to 11 years before being diagnosed with dementia. Although the link found between the drugs and development of dementia appears strong, the researchers noted that their findings are associations and do not show that the drugs cause dementia.

“Further research is needed to confirm whether or not the association between these drugs and risk of dementia is causal. These drugs are prescribed for a number of health conditions and any concerns patients might have about them should be discussed with their doctors,” Professor Martin Rossor, NIHR National Director of Dementia Research, based in London, told Newsweek.

Research contact: @Newsweek

Nut case: Walnuts are found to suppress breast cancer growth

April 2, 2019

New research conducted by Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, has found that walnut consumption may suppress the growth of breast cancers.

Led by W. Elaine Hardman, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, a Marshall University team revealed that consumption of two ounces of walnuts a day for about two weeks “significantly changed gene expression in confirmed breast cancers.”

This clinical trial is the latest of a series of related studies at Marshall University related to dietary walnut links to tumor growth, survival, and metastasis in breast cancer. The work is described in a March 10 paper published in the journal Nutrition Research.

“Consumption of walnuts has slowed breast cancer growth and/or reduced the risk of mammary cancer in mice,” Hardman said. “Building on this research, our team hypothesized that walnut consumption would alter gene expression in pathologically confirmed breast cancers of women in a direction that would decrease breast cancer growth and survival.”

In this first clinical trial, women with breast lumps large enough for research and pathology biopsies were recruited and randomized to walnut consuming or control groups. Immediately following biopsy collection, women in the walnut group began to consume two ounces of walnuts per day until follow-up surgery. Pathological studies confirmed that lumps were breast cancer in all women who remained in the trial. At surgery, about two weeks after biopsy, additional specimens were taken from the breast cancers.

Changes in gene expression in the surgical specimen compared to baseline were determined in each individual woman in walnut-consuming (n = 5) and control (n = 5) groups. RNA sequencing expression profiling revealed that expression of 456 identified genes was significantly changed in the tumor due to walnut consumption. Ingenuity Pathway Analysis showed activation of pathways that promote apotosis [cell death] and cell adhesion; and inhibition of pathways that promote cell proliferation and migration.

“These results support the hypothesis that, in humans, walnut consumption could suppress growth and survival of breast cancers,” Hardman said. “Additional research through a larger-scale study would be needed to clinically confirm that walnut consumption actually does reduce the risk of breast cancer or breast cancer recurrence.”

The study was funded, in part, by the California Walnut Commission, which also provided the walnuts. The CWC did not influence the development of the study, analyses of the data or decision to publish the results. All data is available online.

Research contact: hardmanw@marshall.edu

No bones about it: Slip-and-fall injuries up among seniors who walk dogs to stay active

March 8, 2019

Nothing is more likely to get a senior citizen out of the house for a walk and some fresh air than attending to the needs of his or her dog (and best friend). What’s more, taking Rover for a ramble offers an opportunity to socialize with nearby neighbors and pet owners, especially if the weather is good.

So it seems to be a win-win situation on both sides of the leash. Or is it?

While walking a dog provides older Americans with a valuable outlet for regular, physical activity, findings of a Penn Medicine study indicate that fractures related to these walks more than doubled between 2004 and 2017 in patients 65 and older.

The study — published on March 6 in JAMA Surgery—established that, in this population, 78% of the fractures occurred in women, with hip and upper extremity breaks being the most common.

The rise in injuries in this population is a result of two trends, the researchers say: increased pet ownership and a greater emphasis, in recent years, on physical activity at older ages.

“Dog walking, which has repeatedly demonstrated social, emotional and physical health benefits, is a popular and frequently recommended activity for many older Americans seeking new ways to stay active,” said the study’s lead author Kevin Pirruccio, a second-year medical student in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “This study highlights that while there are undoubtedly pros to dog walking, patients’ risks for falls must be factored into lifestyle recommendations in an effort to minimize such injuries.”

The study team, which included senior author Jaimo Ahn, an associate professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, and Yeo Myoung Yoon, a research assistant at Penn, reviewed all fractures in the 65-and-older population related to “pet products” in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System database of the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. The entries the team found— stretching across roughly 100 participating hospitals’ emergency departments—corresponded to 32,624 cases in the United States, overall.

Fracture injuries linked to walking leashed dogs were found to have increased significantly from 1,671 cases in 2004 to 4,396 in 2017—a 163% increase. About half of the injuries were related to people’s upper extremities; fractures of the wrist, upper arm, finger and shoulder were the most common in that category.

Specifically, seniors fractured their hip most often, accounting for 17% of the injuries in the database. This is particularly concerning as mortality rates related to hip fractures in the in patients over 65 are close to 30%. Why hip injuries among older people can be so deadly has to do with the possibility of setting off a domino-effect of factors that relate to poorer health, such as a sudden lack of mobility and activity.

While the numbers are sobering, the researchers believe that their count of dog walking injuries may actually be low. The study only examined reported fractures and those who went to an emergency room. Debilitating tendon or muscle damage and those who may refuse or seek out other avenues of care were not included in the study.

The researchers don’t want to keep seniors from walking dogs or owning them. But they hope their study and others that build off of it provide grounds for deeper considerations about the risks everyone faces as they grow older.

Research contact: Francis.Otto@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Knowing just one gay person shifts attitudes

February 12, 2019

It’s not what you know, but who you know that gets you in the door, or that moves a social effort forward. Most of us are familiar with this “old saw”—and now,  Daniel DellaPosta of Penn State University has proven it true again.

DellaPosta—an assistant professor of Sociology at Penn and an affiliate of the university’s Institute for CyberScience—has found that people who meet and become acquainted with at least one gay person are more likely to later change their minds about same-sex marriage; and become more accepting of gay and lesbian people in general,

 Indeed, friendship bonds that may seem superficial at first glance could be just deep enough to produce attitude changes that help spark social transformations.

According to DellaPosta, sociologists have long proposed that when people establish certain relationships, they may change their attitudes about issues, often referred to as the contact effect. However, prior to this study, the theory had yet to be rigorously tested.

“What I thought we needed in this area was a test of the contact hypothesis that was conservative — perhaps overly conservative—using the most stringent test we could possibly devise,” said DellaPosta.

DellaPosta examined data from the 2006, 2008, and 2010 editions of General Social Survey (GSS), a sociological survey of opinions that Americans hold on a range of issues.

In 2006, about 45% of the people who had a gay or lesbian acquaintance expressed support for same-sex marriage. By 2010, that figure had increased to 61%. In 2006, only 22% of people who did not have a gay or lesbian acquaintance said they approved of same-sex marriage. That number fell to 18% in 2010.

DellaPosta said that the survey data does not reveal exactly when these relationships were established, which makes the test more rigorous.

“By taking people in that 2006 baseline who were acquainted with gay and lesbian people and comparing them with other people who were similar in all visible regards, including their measured attitude toward same-sex marriage and gay and lesbian people at that 2006 baseline, who were not acquainted with gay and lesbian people, you can get a really conservative test of the contact hypothesis,” said DellaPosta, who reported his findings in a recent issue of the journal Socius.

The findings could shed light on how “coming out” among gay and lesbian people impacts the general acceptance of gay and lesbian people. In the 1973 GSS, just 11% of Americans believed that “homosexuality is not wrong at all.” By 2016, that number had grown to 52%.

DellaPosta suggests that coming out may facilitate more contact with gay and lesbian people, which then accelerates an attitude change about issues that affect the gay community.

Further, DellaPosta suggested that the contact with a gay person does not even need to be especially deep for the contact effect to appear.

“If you have very superficial contact, like just seeing someone from an out group in the grocery store or on the subway, you may focus more on selective behaviors that reinforce your prejudices—like someone dressing, talking or acting in a way that reinforces some negative stereotype of that group,” said DellaPosta.

“But, if you take the next level to mere acquaintanceship—someone whose name you know, someone who, if you saw them on the street, you might stop and chat with them for a moment—the contact effect sets in because when you suddenly have to interact with someone from an out group as an individual, it forces you to reconsider your biases.”

According to DellaPosta, having a closer, deeper bond with a gay or lesbian acquaintance did not result in an even larger shift of attitude toward same-sex marriage. He added that the contact effect actually is larger for people who have a low probability of having a gay or lesbian acquaintance.

Research contact: djd78@psu.edu

Eye contact: As plain as the nose on your face

February 5, 2019

For years, we’ve been told that eye contact is essential to establishing relationships—and that failing to meet a hiring manager’s eyes during a job interview foils any chance of employment.

But just recently, researchers at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia, have found that simply staring somewhere between the forehead and the chin of a conversational partner will suffice, based on a February 5 report by Science Daily.

Yes, eye contact might be all in our heads.

Lead author Dr, Shane Rogers a lecturer in the School of Arts and Humanities, believes that, for those of us who experience social anxiety when making eye contact—or when being engaged eye-to-eye—this finding will be welcome news.

“Maintaining strong eye contact is widely accepted to be an important communication skill in western cultures,” he notes. “People [have been led to] believe if you aren’t willing to engage in soul-to-soul mutual eye contact then you are at best lacking in confidence; at worst, untrustworthy.

“However, the reverence devoted to eye contact is not supported by scientific evidence,” he asserts.

During the course of the study, a researcher engaged in four-minute conversations with 46 participants, during which both parties wore Tobii eye-tracking glasses.

“For approximately half the conversations the researcher looked at the eyes most of the time; for the other half, [they] gazed predominantly at the mouth,” Dr. Rogers explains..

After the conversations, the participants rated how much they enjoyed the conversations.

“The mouth group perceived the same amount of eye contact and enjoyed the conversations just as much as the eye group,” Dr. Rogers comments.

According to Rogers, the results suggest that—when specifically focused on trying to determine the direction of a partner’s glance—people demonstrate a limited capacity to identify it accurately.

“People are not very sensitive to the specific gaze focus of their partner to their face; instead they perceive direct gaze towards their face as eye contact,” Dr Rogers says.

“So don’t get hung up on seeking out the eyes of your audience, just look generally at their face, and let the eye contact illusion experienced by your partner do the work for you,” he recommends.

Research contact: shane.rogers@ecu.edu.au

Giving up the ‘ghost’: How people are ending relationships

January 28, 2019

Now you see them (and hear from them); now you don’t. In friendships, familial relationships, work situations, and, yes, romantic partnerships, “ghosting” has become the no-warning, no-fuss, no-closure way to exit.

Even job candidates have been known to ghost scheduled interviews in a thriving economy.

Indeed, the term, “ghosting,” has been used to describe the act of simply disappearing from somebody’s life by ignoring their calls, texts, and social media messages, Psychology Today reports.

But how common is ghosting, how do people feel about it, and who is likely to do it? New research by Gili Freedman of Dartmouth College and colleagues Darcey N. Powel of Roanoke College, and Benjamin Le of Haverford College—published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships—explores these questions. The team conducted two large-scale online surveys of American adults. The first included 554 participants; the second, 747.2

In both studies, about 25% of participants claimed that they had been ghosted by a previous partner, and about 20 percent indicated that they had ghosted someone else.

The second study also examined ghosting in friendships and found that it was somewhat more common: 31.7% had ghosted a friend, and 38.6% had been ghosted by a friend.

It’s no surprise that most people found ghosting to be an unacceptable way to end a relationship. However, how acceptable people found it to be depended on the type of relationship. In the first study, 28% of respondents felt it was acceptable to ghost after just one date, whereas only 4.7% believed that it was an acceptable way to end a long-term romantic relationship.

When it came to short-term relationships, 19.5% tjhought that ghosting was acceptable. In addition, the majority of participants (69.1%) said that knowing someone had ghosted a romantic partner would make them think more negatively of that person.

Respondents also generally believed that ghosting friends was not that acceptable, but they typically commented that it was more acceptable to ghost friends than romantic partners.

This is consistent with other research in which participants were asked how they felt about being on the receiving end of various break-up methods. Iin that study, cutting off contact was considered one of the least desirable ways to end a relationship.3

What individuals are most likely to ghost? The research showed that those higher in destiny beliefs—those who thought a relation either is “meant to be” or not—were more likely to think that ghosting was acceptable and were less likely to think poorly of the ghoster. What’s more, they also were likely to report that they would consider ghosting as a viable option for breaking up with a partner and to say that they had ghosted someone in the past.

Interestingly enough, the extent to which participants endorsed growth beliefs—those that thought that relationships take work—was, for the most part, not related to their ghosting behavior or attitudes.

It is likely that there are many other characteristics that predict ghosting, Psychology Today said.

Past research has shown that those who are insecure in their relationships tend to feel stronger negative emotions during conflict and experience more stress after a conflict, the news outlet reported. So those who are insecurely attached may be more likely to ghost as a way to avoid the upsetting experience and aftermath of conflict.

It is also likely that those high in narcissism would be more prone to ghosting, as they tend to lack empathy for partners and see them as a means to an end.8

Finally, the newer research also does not answer the question of whether ghosting has become more common in the modern age of texting and social media. It is reasonable to assume it has, Psychology Today says—given the large role that electronic communication plays in relationships. A partner’s ghosting may be the first sign that something is wrong, and once you’ve been ghosted, you may be unlikely to seek an in-person confrontation.

Ghosting may also be easier to get away with in certain modern relationship contexts. For example, online dating has become increasingly popular—with about 25% of young adults using it as a way to meet new partners. Without a mutual social network tying you to a partner, it may be a lot easier to just disappear and not be held accountable.

The magazine warns, if you’re considering taking the easy way out of a relationship, realize that ghosting will not only hurt your partner, but is likely to hurt your reputation.

Research contact: @psychologytoday

At a loss for words? It’s the ‘tip-of-the-tongue’ phenomenon

January 23, 2019

You are watching TV and you see an actor who played a leading role in a sitcom you used to love. Now, what was the name of that show? If you could just remember the character he played, or the first letter of the title, or make some other connection that will close a vital synapse in your brain. You think that the first word starts with a B and has two syllables. You know you can remember this: It’s right on the tip of your tongue.

It’s a sensation that we are all familiar with, according to Verywellmind—and it turns out that this common state actually has a name. It is known as lethologica or the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenonPsychologists define this phenomenon as a feeling that accompanies the temporary inability to retrieve information from memory.

And if you become obsessed with recalling that word, it’s called loganamnosis. Most of us try not to torment ourselves for too long in the belief (perhaps mistaken) that, if we forget about it for a few moments, it will just “come” to us. When something finally does trigger the retrieval of the memory—or when someone else offers up the missing information—the relief of those feelings of frustration is palpable.

Indeed, it really does happen to most of us. Surveys suggest that about 90% of speakers worldwide experience the tip of the tongue phenomenon—and that older adults may have these “senior moments” as often as once a day, while younger folks may find themselves searching for a word about once a week.

According to Verywellmind, some researchers have found that tip-of-the-tongue states may play an adaptive role in the memory and learning process—that the more time people spend attending to a tip-of-the-tongue experience, the better their learning and memory of that material will be in the future.

However, based on results of a study conducted at McMaster University in Ontario—and published in Science News—other researchers have found that concentrating on recalling information that seems to be on the tip of your tongue may actually be problematic. While it may be tempting to spend some time struggling to find the answer, psychologists Karin Humphreys and Amy Beth Warriner suggest that the more time you spend trying to remember a word on the tip of your tongue, the more likely that you’ll struggle with the word again in the future.

It’s akin to spinning one’s tires in the snow: Despite your perseverance, you’re only digging yourself a deeper rut,” the researchers explained in their report.

Humphreys own interest in the topic came from personal experience struggling to remember certain words that seemed to continually pose a challenge.

“This can be incredibly frustrating—you know you know the word, but you just can’t quite get it,” she notes. “And once you have it, it is such a relief that you can’t imagine ever forgetting it again. But then you do. So we began thinking about the mechanisms that might underlie this phenomenon.”

What they found after challenging 30 students to see if they could retrieve words after being given a definition—e.g., “What do you call an instrument for performing calculations by sliding beads along rods or grooves?” (Answer: abacus)—was that it might not be a case of everyone having certain words that are difficult for them to remember, but that by getting into a tip-of-the-tongue state on a particular word once, they actually learn to go into that incorrect state when they try to retrieve the same word again.”

When they repeated the questions two days later, the subjects tended to experience tip-of-the-tongue on the same words they had difficulty retrieving before. The longer the time they had spent in the error state, the greater the problem in finding the word again.

Warriner advises that, to break the cycle, it is best to repeat the retrieved word to yourself, either silently or aloud, several times.

The good news, according to Verywellmind, is that, while tip-of-the-tongue states are often learned and tend to recur, the incorrect learning can be corrected either through resolving the problem spontaneously or by using cues to trigger the retrieval of the information. And it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you. You just may be stressed out or tired.

Finally, if you ever have had that elusive answer suddenly pop into your head, often when you were not even trying to think of it, then you have experienced the “spontaneous resolution” of lethologica.

Research contact: krh@mcmaster.ca