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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Eating disorders may be contageous

The April issue of the International Journal of Eating Disorders published a study indicating that the symptoms of eating disorders tend to cluster within counties. The researchers suggest that prevention efforts should target schools or communities rather than individuals.

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Anti-bullying programs: It's the LAW!

Schools in Pennsylvania will soon be required by law to implement anti-bullying programs to prevent threats, intimidation, name-calling, and teasing. The law, which comes into effect on January 1, 2009, must include consequences for the bullies and identify a staff member to whom victims can report. None of the articles I’ve seen mention any services that might be provided to victims.

You can read more here and here.

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Supervision, Safety, and Caregiving

In a controversial study entitled,¬† ‚ÄúHousehold Composition and Fatal Unintentional Injuries Related to Child Maltreatment,‚Äù Bernard G. Ewigman, professor and chairman of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Chicago found that children living in households with unrelated adults are six times more likely to die of maltreatment-related unintentional injuries, and two times more likely to die when living with foster or step-parents as compared to children living with either one or two of their biological parents.¬† The study further revealed that unintentional deaths to children age five and under occurred when the adult caregiver was either not present, was present but did not adequately protect the child, placed the child to sleep in an unsafe environment, or didn’t use legally required safety devices.

You can read more here.

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