Unhappy people watch more TV

Researchers at the University of Maryland investigated the activities of happy and unhappy people in a study published in the December 2008 issue of Social Indicators Research. John Robinson and Steven Martin examined data collected from 45,000 people over more than 35 years as part of the General Social Survey. They found that people who described themselves as being happy had less free time and engaged in more activities than those who were unhappy. Social activities, religious participation and newspaper reading were more likely to be reported by happy people, and this link remained even after accounting for other demographic factors.

Only one activity occurred more often among unhappy people: watching television. The authors surmised that there might be two possible reasons for this connection. Television might be rewarding in the short-term, but detrimental in the long-term because it replaces more positive activities. Another possibility is that people who are more depressed are more likely to watch television.

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Autism – vaccination link challenged

A new study conducted at Columbia University looked at the relationship between a vaccine used to prevent measles, mumps and rubella and the development of autism. In 1998, a British researcher examined 12 autistic children. A possible link between the vaccination and autism was found. In the new study, researchers identified the timing of the onset of behavioural symptoms and the administration of the vaccine. Biopsies were performed on the GI tract of children with the autism diagnosis and those without. They found no differences between the groups in terms of the presence of the vaccine or signs of measles.

Autism advocates praised the studies for highlighting GI problems among autistic children, but noted that the results did not rule out the role of all vaccines.

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Early life stress alters the brain

Research presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience suggests that early life stress can have a lasting impact on the brain. Monkeys raised under stressful conditions show enlargement of several brain areas related to the regulation of emotion. Similar differences have been found in the brains of humans exposed to early life stress, but it has been difficult to determine whether those changes were present at birth. Researchers speculated that these brain differences may make children vulnerable to stress-related neuropsychiatric disorders later in life.

A second study used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine the brain circuits activated when children perform an activity. Researchers asked children, who had either been raised under stressful (e.g., institutionalized) or non-stressful conditions, to respond when shown a face with a neutral expression and to abstain if the face was frightened. Kids in both groups performed equally well on the task, but used different brain areas when problem-solving. Children raised in non-stressful circumstances used brain circuits involved in perception and cognition. Kids who had experienced early life stress used brain areas involved in emotion – suggesting that early life experiences may increase emotional reactivity of the brain.

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FA054 – Anatomy of Grief, Part 2

The Grief Recovery HandbookDoctors Brian and Giuseppe talk with Jacqueline Lanteigne and Dennis Crawford about recovering from the loss of their son after less than a month. You can find Part 1 here.

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