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Bibliotherapy Proves Reading Is More Than A Cure For Boredom

Grief, fear, heartbreak, depression — book therapy promises to treat it all.

Eight months ago, when his father died suddenly of a stroke, the last thing on James Mitchell’s mind was literature.

There were, of course, far more pressing matters to consider, far more natural instincts to confront than the strange impulse to seek refuge in a novel. The dimensions of grief are always unimaginable, and a desire to see reading, of all things, as the logical solution to its unique violence is hardly to be expected from anyone — least of all a board-certified medical doctor who administers literal anesthetics for a living.

But here was Mitchell, 40, sitting at his computer at his home in Holland Park — a tree-lined, photogenic neighbourhood in central London — consulting a webpage on “book prescriptions” and “literary remedies” for life’s random, debilitating occasions.

“I wouldn’t ordinarily be an early advocate for something like book therapy,” he told HuffPost Canada over the phone, laughing. Historically, he says, he’s always preferred nights with Netflix over nights with Nietzche.

“But the books I read throughout this process really changed my whole perspective,” he says.

What is bibliotherapy?
This change in perspective is, in fact, the point. Book therapy (BT), sometimes called bibliotherapy, refers to the ancient practice of reading or “prescribing” reading — as one might prescribe medicine — for therapeutic effect, and can include both fictional and nonfictional materials.

No matter the genre, the therapeutic approach is all predicated on a simple, if romantic, idea: that books contain secrets which can transform the way we live our lives, and help us to overcome some of its most unwieldy obstacles.

“When I first heard about it, it was through word of mouth,” says Mitchell. One of his friends who’d tried it out before had described a moving experience. “It seemed sort of farfetched,” he adds.

“I’ve never, ever felt that books could change you in that way.”

People who read regularly, for example, sleep better, are less stressed, are better empaths, have higher levels of self-esteem, and, according to Yale University’s School of Public Health, also live longer.

And while many of the evidence supporting the virtues of formal bibliotherapy tends to be anecdotal, there’s also plenty of research that illustrates its positive effects — particularly its general enhancement of mental health and well-being.

“I’ve never, ever felt that books could change you in that way,” Mitchell says. “But it was definitely a process whereby I could feel the change happening as I was reading.”

He pauses: “It was cathartic.”

Though bibliotherapy has a storied medical history across the globe — it’s been used both in mental hospitals, to treat mental patients, and in American military libraries, to treat soldiers after World War I — it’s only just beginning to find its legs in Canada, despite its longstanding support in the United Kingdom.

People who read regularly sleep better, are less stressed out,
and live longer lives than people who don’t read.

 

Social Bibliotherapy
Most of BT’s practitioners are divided into two streams, though both more or less share the same overarching philosophy.

Over the last 10 years or so, Dr. Natalia Tukhareli, director of library and information services at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, has become the de facto lodestar of one of those streams, through her tireless work to make BT practices more available to people in North America.

Tukhareli, who is based in Toronto, is one of Canada’s foremost research scholars in social bibliotherapy: a creative approach to BT — often practiced by librarians and educators in prisons, retirement homes, and community centres — that isn’t intended as a substitute for professional help.

“Bibliotherapy originated in a clinical or medical setting,” Tukhareli told HuffPost Canada. “But through my reading programs, the ultimate goal is to build resilience, improve general well-being, and just help people to move through the adversity in their lives.”

Tukhareli’s practice draws from a popular reading intervention model used by several groups in London, including The Reader Organization, a national charity that wants to catalyze a “reading revolution” through a principal technique called shared reading.

Shared reading is a read-aloud group session, during which a leader reads a passage from a story or poem and group members are encouraged to respond by sharing thoughts, feelings and memories that may have been stirred up. It’s practiced in a number of forums, including public libraries, hospitals, rehabilitation centres, shelters, and retirement homes.

“We’re trying to expand it into non-clinical settings. This is the future,” Tukhareli says.

Over the last few years, Tukhareli created original reading packages based on core existential themes, like loneliness, adversity, forgiveness and bereavement. These packages have been included in a new one-year pilot project, for which seven bibliotherapy groups have opened in the Durham, Ont. region, all based on her approach. (The groups, she notes, are geared toward young parents, low-literacy learners, brain injury clients, seniors, and mental health clients.)

Not only did she help to develop the program, but she also trained the facilitators on how to use her thematic reading packages. “It’s the first time a bibliotherapy program here, in Canada, has received government funding,” she adds.

While this stream of BT isn’t intended to cover mental health issues specifically, it has been proven to engage with health and wellbeing in a profound and physiological way.

 

Social bibliotherapy isn’t meant to target mental health specifically
 — it’s non-clinical — but its been linked with positive mental and physical health.

 

Studies on social bibliotherapy have linked the practice with reductions in the severity of dementia symptoms, alleviation of chronic pain, and, in one extended three-year study, lasting improvement in symptoms of depression

.

Reading books

Yet it has not managed to get much traction in Canada. Many of the country’s book therapists belonged to the Canadian Applied Literature Association (CALA) — an academic group that, until it ceased activity last year, explored the “therapeutic applications of literature and story” — but there is not, for example, an accreditation body that can certify people for the practice.

Courses and educational resources on bibliotherapy in Canada are rare, if almost nonexistent (even the aforementioned CALA is now defunct) and Tukhareli says the lack of institutional structure is partially responsible for why many librarians and other educators are deterred from getting involved: they often fear they’re overstepping their boundaries by entering a profession without being certified.

“But there are two different types of this, and only one needs certification” Tukhareli says. “There’s just a low awareness, nationally, when it comes to both.”

 

Clinical Bibliotherapy
The process behind clinical BT often cleaves to a template not unlike the completion of a medical questionnaire, or a dating profile for literature: you fill out a survey about your reading habits, confess what’s been eating at you, and in return, you receive a personalized reading list of “prescriptions” that will, hopefully, do something for your spirit.

Angry? Read Hemingway. Heartbroken? Read Brontë.

At least, this is one way it can be practiced. Clinical BT is exclusively undertaken by medically-trained doctors, such as psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, who tend to combine the treatment with more conventional forms of talk therapy.

Medical professionals who practice bibliotherapy are often certified in other,
more conventional forms of therapy.

 

“For the most part, it isn’t a kind of therapy that you do on its own,” says Dr. Hoi Cheu, a humanities professor at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont. Cheu is formally trained in marriage and family therapy, and says one of the reasons for this is that BT tends not to be taken seriously as a legitimate form of treatment.

“It’s a lot less obvious, physiologically,” Cheu tells HuffPost Canada. Most rational people wouldn’t reach for a book as a cure for a broken arm, but that’s not to say that no one has made a case for something like reading as an activity that could have a clear and identifiable effect on the body.

“Our brain is a network — it connects everything,” Cheu says. Some psychiatrists who also practice bibliotherapy, he says, prefer (in some cases) to prescribe books over medication. “If you know how, you can overcome a lot of pain by Buddhist meditation, for example. Books can do similar things … but mostly for the mind.”

How does it work?
The path Mitchell took toward healing was the clinical kind, and his prescribed reading list was filled with tough reads — “searching, drastic, stinging, relentless novels.”

There was the Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning, a psychological account of the author’s imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp. There was Sheryl Sandberg’s Option B, a memoir about the aftermath of her husband’s sudden death, and how it disfigured her ability to experience joy. And there was Mitch Albom’s For One More Day, a philosophical exploration of how people might use the opportunity to spend more time with a lost relative.

The effects these books had on Mitchell were not at all abstract. They were concrete and definitive, apparent even to the people around him. “I think my friends and my loved ones could attest to the changes they made in how I was acting and feeling throughout the whole process,” he says.

Sandberg’s Option B, for example, taught him about resilience, and brought him strength in the midst of losing one of the most important people in his life. Albom’s For One More Day moved him to cherish and cling to those family members he still had around.

Frankl’s book, too, had an especially profound effect. “My interpretation was that it’s a story about how, through suffering, you can find purpose,” Mitchell says. “I mean, this is someone who has experienced one of the worst things a human being has ever been through, and comes out the other side with purpose.” Death and grief often force the wicked hand of nihilism, but Mitchell, through insights pulled from Frankl, found ways to locate meaning in his father’s passing.

That meaning was, in some ways, about legacy. For three or four years, Mitchell’s father was an aide to Mind, a U.K.-based charity that campaigns for increased services and resources for people with mental health problems.

We don’t often think of books as medicinal, but Dan Yashinsky,
the storyteller-in-residence at Baycrest Health Sciences,
believes “storycare” should be an essential part of health care.

 

After reading Frankl, Mitchell had an idea. “I went to my local charity, the same one [my father] worked at, and I started doing the same thing he did,” he says. Reading Man’s Search For Meaning led Mitchell on a path to retracing his father’s steps, and he now mirrors them almost identically, both as a means of bringing himself closer, spiritually, to his dad and also to confront his father’s passing “in a much healthier way than I would have otherwise.”

“The whole volunteering thing … it gives me a sense of meaning, a sense of purpose.”

Mitchell says people might be inclined to discount bibliotherapy because they don’t feel they need it, or can’t imagine reading as a plausible solution to anything other than boredom. (Even then, the average American reads just four books in a year, so perhaps boredom is less inspiring than one might think.) There’s also the matter of general awareness — most people don’t know anything about bibliotherapy.

Still, he argues that no one needs an “instigate event” to engage with bibliotherapy. Mitchell doesn’t think your heart needs to break for you to read something, or that you need to have some disastrous emotional experience in order to be tricked into reading. He wants to make book therapy a regular part of his children’s lives, so they can prematurely glean some of the insights he’s only arrived at now, in his 40s.

“This has changed my life in a beautiful way,” Mitchell says. “I think it would be a good gift for them, too.”

By Connor Garel    11/13/2019


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If You’re Not Sticking To A Regular Sleep Schedule, You’re Hurting Your Health, Study Says

Ok, I admit it. I often stay up late on weekends, catching up on TV or seeing friends, then decadently allow myself to slumber for hours past my regular wake-up time the next morning.

To a diehard night owl like me, this is delicious freedom, a sort of personal protest against the rigidity of the obnoxious workday alarm.

Sound familiar? If so, fellow snooze buddies, it turns out our lack of a regular sleep routine is hurting our health.

A new study published Monday found changing your regular sleep-wake time by 90 minutes — in either direction — significantly increases your chance of having a heart attack or heart disease.
A regular sleep time was defined in the study as less than 30 minutes difference, on average, across seven nights.

“Compared with people who had the most regular sleep time, those with the most irregular sleep time — more than a 90 minute difference on average across seven nights — had more than a two-fold increased risk of cardiovascular disease over a 5-year period,” said study author Tianyi Huang, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

The link remained strong even after controlling for cholesterol, blood pressure and other known cardiovascular risk factors, as well as sleep issues such as insomnia, sleep apnea and sleep duration.
That suggests, Huang said, that high day-to-day variability in sleep duration or timing may be a “novel and independent cardiovascular risk factor.”

“That’s huge,” said Dr. David Goff, who directs the division of cardiovascular sciences at the United States National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
“One out of three people in the US die from heart disease, and 60% of us will have a major cardiovascular disease event before we die,” said Goff, who was not involved in the study.
“People are living busy, stressful lives and not getting a lot of sleep during the week,” Goff said. “Then they are trying to get catchup sleep on the weekend, and that’s not a healthy pattern.”

The link between sleep and heart

The cardiovascular system — including heart rate, blood pressure and vascular tone — operates on a strong circadian rhythm to maintain normal functioning.

Messing with our internal sleep clock “has been linked to cardiovascular risk factors like hypertension, insulin resistance or diabetes,” Huang said, “but this is the first study to link an irregular sleep pattern pattern with cardiovascular disease.”

The study followed more than 2,000 people ages 45 to 84 without any cardiovascular disease over a five-year period. After a baseline exam, follow-up physicals measured any lifestyle, medication or disease changes, while a sleep study tested for sleep disorders like apnea.

Then the participants wore a sleep wrist tracker for seven consecutive nights.

“About a quarter of people in this age range didn’t have a regular time for going to sleep,” Goff said.

Since many of the participants were retired, it was surprising to find some 500 people had significantly disrupted sleep schedules.

While it may appear this link is strongest for the elderly, that may not be the case. A previous analysis of 53 studies on people age 18 and up found younger age to be more consistently associated with a variable sleep cycle.

“This sleep irregularity may be even more common among younger people,” Huang said. “Younger people may have more demands from study and from work, and those may also influence whether they can have a regular sleep pattern or not.”

If that becomes a habit in life, the results could be dangerous. That’s because the study also found a linear upward link between disrupted sleep cycles and heart issues.

“The more you sleep irregularly, the higher the risk you have,” Huang said.

Better sleep habits

The good news is that you can do something about your poor sleep habits.

Get moving. Exercise is key to promoting good sleep. As little as 10 minutes a day of walking, biking or other aerobic exercise can “drastically improve nighttime sleep quality,” according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Strive for cooler temperatures. Make sure your bed and pillows are comfortable, and the room is cool: Between 60 and 67 degrees is best. Don’t watch TV or work in your bedroom. You want your brain to think of the room as only for sleep.

Avoid certain food and drink. Avoid stimulants such as nicotine or coffee after mid afternoon, especially if you have insomnia. Alcohol is another no-no. You may think it helps you doze off, but you are more likely to wake in the night as your body begins to process the spirits.

Develop a routine. Taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating or doing light stretches are all good options.

Be good to your circadian rhythm. “Like your mom always told you, you should have a regular bedtime and a regular time for getting up in the morning,” advised Goff.

Keep yourself in the dark. Be sure to eliminate all bright lights, as even the blue light of cellphones or laptops can be disruptive. If that’s hard to accomplish, think about using eye shades and blackout curtains to keep the room dark. But during the day, try to get good exposure to natural light, as that will help regulate your circadian rhythm.

Follow these steps, and you’ll be well on your way to improving your sleep habits and your health.

By Sandee LaMotte, CNN      March 2, 2020
source: www.cnn.com

 

sleep

 

Study Finds Link Between Dementia And Lack Of Sleep

A growing body of research suggests poor sleep is tied to impaired thinking and dementia in older adults. Now a new study may shed light on why.

Researchers at the University of Toronto have found a potential explanation of what disrupted sleep does to the human brain. They studied 685 adults older than 65, who participated in two large U.S. studies, and looked at their sleep patterns, their performance on thinking tests and, later, their brain-tissue samples after the participants died.

The researchers’ findings, published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, indicate disrupted sleep may contribute to changes in a type of immune cell in the brain called microglia, which in turn appear to be related to poorer cognitive functions, such as memory and the ability to reason.

While further research is needed to determine whether fixing people’s sleep problems can prevent or reverse cognitive decline, Andrew Lim, one of the authors of the study, said fragmented sleep should not be ignored.

Many people believe “having bad sleep is just part of aging, and it’s something that’s annoying but to be tolerated, rather than aggressively managed or aggressively investigated,” said Dr. Lim, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Toronto and sleep neurologist at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. “This adds one more reason to take sleep [problems] seriously and to look for your treatable causes and to address them.”

This study builds on previous research, including studies on rodents and genetic studies, that suggest microglia play a role in the link between poor sleep and cognitive impairment and dementia. Microglia normally help fight infections and clear debris from the brain. But dysfunction of microglia appears to be involved in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Lim said.

In the study, researchers recorded participants’ sleep disruptions by having them wear wristwatch-like actigraphy devices, which could detect subtle signs of them awakening at night, even when participants themselves were unaware. The participants were asked to wear these devices for 10 days, once a year, for a median period of two years.

Participants also performed a series of cognitive tests annually. They agreed to donate their brains for research after their death, and researchers were able to examine their microglia in two ways. First, since activated and resting microglia differ in appearance, researchers were able to determine the density and proportion of activated microglia by looking at participants’ brain tissue under a microscope, Dr. Lim said. Then, they examined patterns of gene expression to identify “older” versus “younger” microglia – that is, whether the microglia appeared as though they came from an older person from a genetic perspective.

The researchers found connections between all three variables. Individuals who had higher levels of sleep fragmentation had a higher proportion of activated microglia and gene expression characteristic of older microglia. This was the case both for participants who had Alzheimer’s disease and those who did not. Those with poorer sleep also performed worse on their cognitive tests. And participants who had a greater proportion of activated microglia or genetically older microglia also had poorer cognitive test results.

Professor Teresa Liu-Ambrose of the University of British Columbia, who was not involved in the study, said the findings align with what researchers know thus far about the importance of sleep and the possible contribution of poor sleep to Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Liu-Ambrose, the Canada research chair in physical activity, mobility and cognitive neuroscience at UBC, said good-quality sleep is believed to allow the brain to clear itself of toxic beta-amyloid protein, the buildup of which is one of the characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease. And, she said, there is also good evidence to suggest an accumulation of beta-amyloid can further contribute to disrupted sleep.

“It’s a vicious cycle,” she said.

“What [the new study] really does show is that it’s important to protect your sleep overall,” she said. “[Sleep quality] does seem to have very direct effects on the brain, both acutely, but also chronically.”

 

WENCY LEUNG    HEALTH REPORTER     DECEMBER 11, 2019
FOLLOW WENCY LEUNG ON TWITTER @WENCYLEUNG


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Mushrooms May Reduce Risk of Cognitive Decline in Older Adults

Older adults who consume more than two servings of mushrooms each week may reduce their risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) by 50 percent, according to a new 6-year study conducted by researchers from Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

“This correlation is surprising and encouraging. It seems that a commonly available single ingredient could have a dramatic effect on cognitive decline,” said Assistant Professor Lei Feng, who is from the NUS department of psychological medicine, and the lead author of this work.

The study used six types of mushrooms commonly consumed in Singapore: golden, oyster, shiitake and white button mushrooms, as well as dried and canned mushrooms. However, researchers believe it is likely that other mushrooms would also have beneficial effects.

A serving was defined as three quarters of a cup of cooked mushrooms with an average weight of around 150 grams. Two servings would be equivalent to about half a plate. While the portion sizes act as a guideline, the study found that even one small serving of mushrooms a week may still help reduce chances of MCI.

MCI falls between the typical cognitive decline seen in normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia. Older adults with MCI often exhibit some form of memory loss or forgetfulness and may also show declines in other types of cognitive function such as language, attention and visuospatial abilities.

These changes can be subtle, as they do not reflect the disabling cognitive deficits that can impact everyday life activities, which are characteristic of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
The research, which was conducted from 2011 to 2017, collected data from more than 600 Chinese seniors over the age of 60 living in Singapore. The findings are published online in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

“People with MCI are still able to carry out their normal daily activities. So, what we had to determine in this study is whether these seniors had poorer performance on standard neuropsychologist tests than other people of the same age and education background,” Feng said.

mushrooms

As such, the researchers conducted extensive interviews which took into account demographic information, medical history, psychological factors, and dietary habits. A nurse measured blood pressure, weight, height, hand grip, and walking speed. The participants also completed a simple screen test on cognition, depression and anxiety.

Finally, a two-hour standard neuropsychological evaluation was performed, along with a dementia rating. The overall results of these tests were discussed in depth with psychiatrists to come to a diagnostic consensus.

The researchers believe the reason for the reduced prevalence of MCI in mushroom eaters may come down to a specific compound found in almost all varieties. “We’re very interested in a compound called ergothioneine (ET),” said Dr. Irwin Cheah, Senior Research Fellow at the NUS Department of Biochemistry.

“ET is a unique antioxidant and anti-inflammatory which humans are unable to synthesize on their own. But it can be obtained from dietary sources, one of the main ones being mushrooms.”

A previous study by the team on elderly Singaporeans revealed that plasma levels of ET in participants with MCI were significantly lower than age-matched healthy individuals. The findings led to the belief that an ET deficiency may be a risk factor for neurodegeneration, and increasing ET intake through mushroom consumption might possibly promote cognitive health.

The next step is to conduct a randomized controlled trial with the pure compound of ET and other plant-based ingredients, such as L-theanine and catechins from tea leaves, to determine the potential of such phytonutrients in delaying cognitive decline.

By Traci Pedersen    Associate News Editor
13 Mar 2019

Source: National University of Singapore


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Study: Memories of Music Cannot Be Lost to Alzheimer’s and Dementia

The part of your brain responsible for ASMR catalogs music, and appears to be a stronghold against Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Some music inspires you to move your feet, some inspires you to get out there and change the world. In any case, and to move hurriedly on to the point of this article, it’s fair to say that music moves people in special ways.

If you’re especially into a piece of music, your brain does something called Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR), which feels to you like a tingling in your brain or scalp. It’s nature’s own little “buzz”, a natural reward, that is described by some as a “head orgasm”. Some even think that it explains why people go to church, for example, “feeling the Lord move through you”, but that’s another article for another time.

Turns out that ASMR is pretty special. According to a recently published study in The Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease (catchy name!), the part of your brain responsible for ASMR doesn’t get lost to Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s tends to put people into layers of confusion, and the study confirms that music can sometimes actually lift people out of the Alzheimer’s haze and bring them back to (at least a semblance of) normality… if only for a short while. ASMR is powerful stuff!

This phenomenon has been observed several times but rarely studied properly. One of the most famous examples of this is the story of Henry, who comes out of dementia while listening to songs from his youth:

Jeff Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in Radiology at the Univerity of Utah Health and contributing author on the study, says  “In our society, the diagnoses of dementia are snowballing and are taxing resources to the max. No one says playing music will be a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but it might make the symptoms more manageable, decrease the cost of care and improve a patient’s quality of life.”

NED DYMOKE       29 April, 2018

 

music

Music Therapy Can Reduce Depression in Children and Teens

Summary: A new study reports music therapy can help to reduce depressive symptoms in children and teens with emotional and behavioral problems.

Researchers at Bournemouth University and Queen’s University Belfast have discovered that music therapy reduces depression in children and adolescents with behavioural and emotional problems.

In partnership with Every Day Harmony (the brand name for Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust), the researchers found that children and young people, aged 8-16-years-old, who received music therapy had significantly improved self-esteem and reduced depression compared with those who received treatment without music therapy.

The study, which was funded by the Big Lottery Fund, also found that young people aged 13 and over who received music therapy had improved communicative and interactive skills, compared to those who received usual care options alone. Music therapy also improved social functioning over time in all age groups.

In the largest ever study of its kind, 251 children and young people were involved in the study, which took place between March 2011 and May 2014. They were divided into two groups: 128 underwent the usual care options, while 123 were assigned to music therapy in addition to usual care. All were being treated for emotional, developmental or behavioural problems.

Professor Sam Porter of the Department of Social Sciences and Social Work at Bournemouth University, who led the study, said: “This study is hugely significant in terms of determining effective treatments for children and young people with behavioural problems and mental health needs. The findings contained in our report should be considered by healthcare providers and commissioners when making decisions about the sort of care for young people that they wish to support.”

In the largest ever study of its kind, 251 children and young people were involved in the study, which took place between March 2011 and May 2014. They were divided into two groups: 128 underwent the usual care options, while 123 were assigned to music therapy in addition to usual care. All were being treated for emotional, developmental or behavioural problems. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Bournemouth University.

Dr Valerie Holmes, Centre for Public Health, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Queen’s University Belfast and co-researcher, added: “This is the largest study ever to be carried out looking at music therapy’s ability to help this very vulnerable group.”

Ciara Reilly, Chief Executive of Every Day Harmony, the music therapy charity that was a partner in the research, said: “Music therapy has often been used with children and young people with particular mental health needs, but this is the first time its effectiveness has been shown by a definitive randomised controlled trail in a clinical setting. The findings are dramatic and underscore the need for music therapy to be made available as a mainstream treatment option. For a long time, we have relied on anecdotal evidence and small-scale research findings about how well music therapy works. Now we have robust clinical evidence to show its beneficial effects. I would like to record my gratefulness to the Big Lottery Fund for its vision in providing the resources for this research to be carried out”.

The research team will now look at the data to establish how cost effective music therapy is in relation to other treatments.

Abstract

Music therapy for children and adolescents with behavioural and emotional problems: a randomised controlled trial

Background

Although music therapy (MT) is considered an effective intervention for young people with mental health needs, its efficacy in clinical settings is unclear. We therefore examined the efficacy of MT in clinical practice.

Methods

Two hundred and fifty-one child (8–16 years, with social, emotional, behavioural and developmental difficulties) and parent dyads from six Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service community care facilities in Northern Ireland were randomised to 12 weekly sessions of MT plus usual care [n = 123; 76 in final analyses] or usual care alone [n = 128; 105 in final analyses]. Follow-up occurred at 13 weeks and 26 weeks postrandomisation. Primary outcome was improvement in communication (Social Skills Improvement System Rating Scales) (SSIS) at 13 weeks. Secondary outcomes included social functioning, self-esteem, depression and family functioning.

Results

There was no significant difference for the child SSIS at week 13 (adjusted difference in mean 2.4; 95% CI −1.2 to 6.1; p = .19) or for the guardian SSIS (0.5; 95% CI −2.9 to 3.8; p = .78). However, for participants aged 13 and over in the intervention group, the child SSIS communication was significantly improved (6.1, 95% CI 1.6 to 10.5; p = .007) but not the guardian SSIS (1.1; 95% CI −2.9 to 5.2; p = .59). Overall, self-esteem was significantly improved and depression scores were significantly lower at week 13. There was no significant difference in family or social functioning at week 13.

Conclusions

While the findings provide some evidence for the integration of music therapy into clinical practice, differences relating to subgroups and secondary outcomes indicate the need for further study. ISRCTN Register; ISRCTN96352204.

“Music therapy for children and adolescents with behavioural and emotional problems: a randomised controlled trial” by Sam Porter, Tracey McConnell, Katrina McLaughlin, Fiona Lynn, Christopher Cardwell, Hannah-Jane Braiden, Jackie Boylan, Valerie Holmes, and On behalf of the Music in Mind Study Group in Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Published online October 27 2016 doi:10.1111/jcpp.12656


ABOUT THIS PSYCHOLOGY RESEARCH ARTICLE

Source: Bournemouth University 
Original Research: Full open access research for “Music therapy for children and adolescents with behavioural and emotional problems: a randomised controlled trial” by Sam Porter, Tracey McConnell, Katrina McLaughlin, Fiona Lynn, Christopher Cardwell, Hannah-Jane Braiden, Jackie Boylan, Valerie Holmes, and On behalf of the Music in Mind Study Group in Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Published online October 27 2016 doi:10.1111/jcpp.12656

NOVEMBER 5, 2016


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Blueberries May Help Reduce Your Risk Of Alzheimer’s Disease: It’s All About The Anthocyanins

Blueberries deliver the most delicious wallop of vitamin C found on the planet (in my humble opinion). One serving supplies 25 percent of your daily C requirement plus additional heart-healthy fiber and manganese, important to bone health. A super-achiever when it comes to antioxidant strength, this fruit may also lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, and, new research suggests, even Alzheimer’s disease.

A team of University of Cincinnati scientists led by Dr. Robert Krikorian says the healthful antioxidants within blueberries provide a real benefit in improving memory and cognitive function in some older adults. Based on their work, they believe adding blueberries to your diet may help you prevent neurocognitive decline.

Blueberries acquire their deep color from anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid that acts as an antioxidant within the fruit, explains the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. Generally, antioxidants help to prevent age-related damage at the cellular level within the plants. While some scientists believe consuming foods rich in antioxidants will help delay aging, not all scientists, including those at the National Institutes of Health, entirely support that theory.

Still, eating a diet rich in fruits and veggies is unquestionably good for your health with many scientists analyzing and testing specific foods to understand whether they might prevent a particular illness. Quite a few studies, Krikorian and his colleagues note, have found blueberries beneficial in preventing dementia.

 

blueberries
Anthocyanins within blueberries provide a real benefit in improving memory
and cognitive function in some older adults: study.

Silver Tide
One type of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. This neurodegenerative disorder develops in a healthy brain, its symptoms appearing slowly and then worsening over time. Eventually, this disease becomes severe enough to interfere with daily tasks and in the end disrupts even the autonomic nervous system, which controls heart rate and breathing. If they live long enough, Alzheimer’s patients die because their breathing stops. Currently 5.3 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, yet as the nation’s population grows older, that number will almost inevitably rise. The Alzheimer’s Association calculates that the number of Americans with this disorder will reach more than seven million by 2025.

How can science slow this trend?

Following up on earlier clinical trials showing blueberries boost cognitive performance, Krikorian and colleagues conducted two new studies. The first involved 47 adults, 68 years old or older and beginning to show signs of mild cognitive impairment — a risk factor for Alzheimer’s. First, the researchers conducted tests and a brain scan for each participant. Then, after forming two groups, one group of participants ate a placebo powder once a day for 16 weeks, while the other consumed a freeze-dried blueberry powder (equivalent to a single cup of berries).

Conducting the same tests and comparing the groups, Krikorian and his colleagues observed comparative improvement in cognitive performance and brain function among the adults who ate blueberry powder.

“The blueberry group demonstrated improved memory and improved access to words and concepts,” said Krikorian in a statement to the press. Additionally, a second scan showed increased activity in the brains of those in the blueberry group.

The team’s second study included 94 people between the ages of 62 and 80, all confessing to some memory problems. The researchers believed these participants to be in better cognitive “shape” than the first group, however no objective measurements verified this. For this study, the researchers divided the participants into four groups. Each group received either blueberry powder, fish oil, fish oil and powder, or placebo.

A hoped-for replication of the first study did not occur. Cognition proved somewhat better for those taking either blueberry powder or fish oil separately, yet memory barely improved, certainly not as much as in the first study, Krikorian noted. Even the scans showed similar lukewarm results. The team believes participants’ less severe cognitive impairments contributed to this weakened effect.

Blueberries may not show measurable benefit for those with minor memory issues or who have not yet developed cognitive problems, the combined results of the two studies suggest. Perhaps blueberries effectively treat only those patients who already show signs of mental impairment.

Nevertheless, Krikorian says, the very same ingredient that bestows color may provide blueberries with their brain benefits; in past animal studies, scientists have shown anthocyanins improve cognition.

By Susan Scutti      Mar 13, 2016
 
source:    Krikorian R, et al. Blueberry Fruit Supplementation in Human Cognitive Aging.
Meeting of the American Chemical Society. 2016.


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The Food Flavouring That Causes Dementia

90% use too much of a flavouring that can cause inflammation of blood vessels in the brain.

A high-salt diet is linked to dementia, new research finds.

Salt causes the delicate lining of the brain’s blood vessels to inflame, because of signals sent from the gut.

Fully 90% of Americans consume above the recommended dietary maximum of 2,300 mg per day.

Dr Costantino Iadecola, study co-author, said:

“We discovered that mice fed a high-salt diet developed dementia even when blood pressure did not rise.
This was surprising since, in humans, the deleterious effects of salt on cognition were attributed to hypertension.”

The effect was quickly reversed by lowering salt intake.

The conclusions come from a study in which mice were fed a high-salt diet that is equivalent to a high-salt diet in humans.

Subsequently, the mice had much worse cognitive function.

Their brains showed 28% less activity in the cortex and 25% less in the hippocampus.

They had problems getting around a maze and did not show the usual interest in new objects placed in their cage.

They also had poorer blood flow in their brains and the integrity of the blood vessels there was worse.

However, these changes were reversed once the mice were returned to a normal diet.

The scientists found that these changes had nothing to do with higher blood pressure.

Worse cognitive functioning in the mice was seen even when the mice had normal blood pressure.

They were the result of signals sent from the gut to the brain.

These activated an immune response in the brain which increased levels of interleukin-17.

This eventually resulted in the inflammation of the delicate lining of the brain’s blood vessels.

The study was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience (Faraco et al., 2018).
source: PsyBlog


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Lack Of Rem Sleep Tied To Increased Risk Of Dementia

(Reuters Health) – People who spend less time in deep, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep may be more likely to develop dementia than individuals who get better quality rest, a recent study suggests.

Patients with dementia often have difficulty sleeping, but previous research has offered a mixed picture of which comes first – the cognitive decline or the sleep deficit.

For the current study, researchers examined data from overnight sleep studies for 321 adults age 60 or older who didn’t have dementia. After an average follow-up of 12 years, 32 people developed dementia.

Each percentage reduction in the time people spent in REM sleep was associated with a 9 percent increase in the risk of dementia, researchers report in Neurology.

“We observe an association between sleep and dementia but cannot determine whether reduced REM causes dementia,” said lead study author Matthew Pase of Swinburne University in Australia.

“It is unclear whether increasing REM sleep reduces dementia risk,” Pase, who did the research as part of the Framingham Heart Study at Boston University, said by email. “However, good quality sleep is clearly important for overall health and well-being and the emerging picture suggests that sleep and dementia may influence each other.”

Overall, study participants spent about 20 percent of their sleeping time in REM sleep, the sleep analysis found. But the subset of people who went on to develop dementia spent only 17 percent of their sleep time in REM sleep.

Out of all the dementia cases found in the current study, 25 percent occurred within the first 6.6 years of follow-up. The total included 24 instances of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.

Reduced REM was associated with similar increases in the risk of both Alzheimer’s and other dementia cases.

Researchers also looked at what’s known as sleep latency, or how long it takes to fall asleep, and didn’t find this related to the risk of developing dementia.

The study is small, and the results would need to be confirmed by more research in larger groups of people, said Dr. Eric Larson, vice president for research at Kaiser Permanente Washington and a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle.

But that doesn’t mean people should ignore the importance of REM sleep.

“REM sleep is considered the part of the sleep cycle where our brains get rejuvenated,” Larson, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email. “It’s considered the best part of sleep from a perspective of gaining the rest that restores well-being.”

Other research has linked both insomnia and a nighttime breathing disorder known as sleep apnea with an increased risk of dementia, noted Dr. Kristine Yaffe, a psychiatry and neurology researcher at the University of California, San Francisco who wasn’t involved in the study.

“This adds to the growing science that sleep health or quality is related to brain health,” Yaffe said by email. “It is important to tell your doctor about concerns about your sleep and follow good sleep hygiene practices.”

Lisa Rapaport      SOURCE: bit.ly/2xMYjve      Neurology, online     August 23, 2017     reuters.com


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The Case For Drinking Coffee Is Stronger Than Ever

There are few things more more ritualistic—and to many, more sacred—than a morning cup of joe. 64% of Americans drink at least one cup a day—a statistic that’s barely budged since the ’90s. Despite warnings from doctors over the years that coffee may be hard on the body, people have remained devoted to the drink.

Luckily for them, the latest science is evolving in their favor. Research is showing that coffee may have net positive effects on the body after all.

Is coffee bad for you?

For years, doctors warned people to avoid coffee because it might increase the risk of heart disease and stunt growth. They worried that people could become addicted to the energy that high amounts of caffeine provided, leading them to crave more and more coffee as they became tolerant to higher amounts of caffeine. Experts also worried that coffee had damaging effects on the digestive tract, which could lead to stomach ulcers, heartburn and other ills.

All of this concern emerged from studies done decades ago that compared coffee drinkers to non-drinkers on a number of health measures, including heart problems and mortality. Coffee drinkers, it seemed, were always worse off.

But it turns out that coffee wasn’t really to blame. Those studies didn’t always control for the many other factors that could account for poor health, such as smoking, drinking and a lack of physical activity. If people who drank a lot of coffee also happened to have some other unhealthy habits, then it’s not clear that coffee is responsible for their heart problems or higher mortality.

That understanding has led to a rehabilitated reputation for the drink. Recent research reveals that once the proper adjustments are made for confounding factors, coffee drinkers don’t seem have a higher risk for heart problems or cancer than people who don’t drink coffee. Recent studies also found no significant link between the caffeine in coffee and heart-related issues such as high cholesterol, irregular heartbeats, stroke or heart attack.

Is coffee good for you?

Studies show that people who drink coffee regularly may have an 11% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than non-drinkers, thanks to ingredients in coffee that can affect levels of hormones involved in metabolism.

In a large study involving tens of thousands of people, researchers found that people who drank several cups a day—anywhere from two to four cups—actually had a lower risk of stroke. Heart experts say the benefits may come from coffee’s effect on the blood vessels; by keeping vessels flexible and healthy, it may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, which can cause heart attacks.

It’s also high in antioxidants, which are known to fight the oxidative damage that can cause cancer. That may explain why some studies have found a lower risk of liver cancer among coffee drinkers.

Coffee may even help you live longer. A recent study involving more than 208,000 men and women found that people who drank coffee regularly were less likely to die prematurely than those who didn’t drink coffee. Researchers believe that some of the chemicals in coffee may help reduce inflammation, which has been found to play a role in a number of aging-related health problems, including dementia and Alzheimer’s. Some evidence also suggests that coffee may slow down some of the metabolic processes that drive aging.

One downside is that people may become dependent on caffeine (no surprise to any regular caffeine-drinker who takes a coffee break). The symptoms—headaches, irritability and fatigue—can mimic those of people coming off of addictive drugs. Yet doctors don’t consider the dependence anywhere close to as worrisome as addictions to habit-forming drugs like opiates. While unpleasant, caffeine “withdrawal” symptoms are tolerable and tend to go away after a day or so.

How much coffee is safe?

Like so many foods and nutrients, too much coffee can cause problems, especially in the digestive tract. But studies have shown that drinking up to four 8-ounce cups of coffee per day is safe. Sticking to those boundaries shouldn’t be hard for coffee drinkers in the U.S., since most drink just a cup of java per day.Moderation is key. But sipping coffee in reasonable amounts just might be one of the healthiest things you can do.

Alice Park   May 05, 2017    TIME 
source: time.com


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Dementia Linked To Beverage Consumed By 50% Of People Every Day

Half of North Americans use a drink linked to dementia on any given day.

Both sugary and artificially sweetened ‘diet’ drinks are linked to dementia by two new studies.

People who drink sugary beverages tend to have poorer memories, smaller brains and a smaller hippocampus (an area vital for learning and memory).

Diet sodas, though, don’t seem much safer.

A follow-up study found that people who drink diet sodas are three times more likely to develop dementia and stroke, compared to those who drink none.

Both studies show associations, so it doesn’t prove cause and effect.

Professor Sudha Seshadri, who led the research, said:

“These studies are not the be-all and end-all, but it’s strong data and a very strong suggestion.
It looks like there is not very much of an upside to having sugary drinks, and substituting the sugar with artificial sweeteners doesn’t seem to help.
Maybe good old-fashioned water is something we need to get used to.”



Excess sugar intake has long been linked to obesity, diabetes  and heart disease.

Its effect on the brain is more of an unknown (although what are the chances it’s going to be good for us?!)

More surprising is the link between diet sodas and dementia.

The researchers suggest it could be down to the artificial sweeteners used.

Sugar is toxic to the brain

This is certainly not the first study to link sugar intake with dementia.

A recent study linked excess sugar intake with Alzheimer’s disease.

It suggested that too much glucose (sugar) in the diet damages a vital enzyme which helps fight the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

High blood sugar levels have also been linked to memory problems.

The researchers in this study think that sugar could have a ‘toxic’ effect on the brain.

The studies were published in the journals Stroke and Alzheimer’s & Dementia (Pase et al., 2017; Pase et al., 2017).

source: PsyBlog


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Personal Music Playlists May Reduce Medication Use With Dementia

Nursing home residents with dementia who listen to a personalized music playlist may need less psychotropic medication and have improved behavior, a recent study suggests.

The individualized music program designed for nursing homes, called Music and Memory, didn’t improve mood problems, but patients who listened to music tailored to their tastes and memories did need less anti-anxiety and anti-psychotic medication, researchers found.

“Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias can result in aggressive or other difficult behaviors, which affect people’s lives and take a toll on their caregivers,” said lead author Kali Thomas, an assistant professor at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.
“We think that familiar music may have a calming or pleasurable effect and reduce the need for caregivers to use medications to control dementia behaviors,” Thomas told Reuters Health by email.

The potential of this kind of intervention was illustrated in the 2014 documentary “Alive Inside,” which shows nursing home residents with dementia moving, singing and engaging with others while listening to their favorite music, the study team writes in American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

But the effects have never been tested to see if the intervention is evidence-based, the authors write.

To determine what the program accomplishes, the researchers implemented Music and Memory in 98 nursing homes with a total of about 13,000 residents with Alzheimer’s disease or non-Alzheimer’s dementia and followed a roughly equal number of residents with dementia in 98 nursing homes without the program for comparison.

In the Music and Memory program, nursing home staff are trained to create music playlists for residents based on each patient’s personal history and music preferences.

At the start of the study in 2012, the researchers used records to assess patients’ behavioral problems, depressed mood and their use of ant-anxiety and anti-psychotic medications. The same assessments were done in 2013, after the experiment was over.

Among the facilities included in the music program, the typical proportion of residents who discontinued anti-psychotic medications in a six-month period was 17.6 percent prior to the program’s implementation, and rose to 20.1 percent after the program. In the comparison homes without the program, this proportion remained stable at about 15 percent.

Similarly, the proportion of people discontinuing anti-anxiety medications rose from 23.5 percent to 24.4 percent, while in the comparison group discontinuation rates dropped from 25 percent to 20 percent over the same period.

Nursing homes using the music program also reported greater improvements in residents’ behavior. The proportion of residents with reduced dementia-related behavioral problems rose from 51 percent to 57 percent, while the comparison group remained the same.

The cost of the program depends on the size of the facility and ranges from $250 to $1,000 for staff training, plus $200 per year for program support, the authors note. Some participants also receive a “starter kit” including an iPod for their music, or ask family members to provide them with an iPod to use in the program.

The benefits of music for people with dementia go beyond behavior management, said Orii McDermott, a senior research fellow at the University of Nottingham in the UK, who was not involved in the study.

“Sharing favorite music or taking part in music activities offer social opportunities for people with dementia,” said McDermott, adding that social interaction is extremely important because the progression of dementia often leads to isolation.
“For busy care home staff, finding out each resident’s preferred music may feel like a time consuming task,” McDermott said. However, “people with dementia find individualized music interventions meaningful and improve their quality of life – so it will be a time well spent in the long run,” she noted.
“The population of older adults with dementia, in particular those residing in nursing homes, is large and is growing,” Thomas said. “This study suggests that Music and Memory may be one intervention that holds promise.”

By Madeline Kennedy     Fri May 19, 2017     Reuters Health
SOURCE:    bit.ly/2pEIEhN       American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, online April 14, 2017          www.reuters.com