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Attention Problems In Early Childhood Can Have A Lasting Impact

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Children with attention problems in early childhood were 40 percent less likely to graduate from high school, says a new study from Duke University that examines how early childhood characteristics affect academic performance.

The results highlight the need to develop effective early interventions to help those with attention problems stay on track academically and for educators to encourage positive peer relationships, the researchers said.

We are learning that student success requires a more comprehensive approach, one that incorporates not only academic skills but also social, self-regulatory and attention skills. If we neglect any of these areas, the child’s development lags. If we attend to these areas, a child’s success may reinforce itself with positive feedback loops.


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Pokémon GO Or NO? What Parents Need To Know

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Pokémon GO is only days old, but already it’s a monster success. It’s all over the news and social feeds, crashed servers here in Australia and compelled millions of big and little kids world-wide to hit the streets to chase colourful creatures that don’t really exist.

Yeah great, you say, but what the hell is it? In short, it’s an augmented reality phone app based on the popular  TV series and card game. Using your GPS settings and camera, the app makes Pokemon ‘appear’ in your real-time surroundings. Players compete to catch them (by throwing virtual Pokéballs) to level up and use in duels with other players (at locations dubbed Pokégyms). Got it?

The game’s recommended for children aged nine and over, due to some animated violence in battles, but there’s also valid concerns about children’s safety outdoors, plugging into the wider game community and in-app purchases. Still with its playful, interactive nature, it’s easy to see younger children begging mums and dads to join the hunt.

Here’s seven things to know before you start pegging Pokéballs.

– Jason Treuen

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Pediatrics Group Cautions Against Violent Video Games For Children

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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is reiterating its long-standing appeal for parents to keep children away from violent movies and video games.

“Although there is broad scientific consensus that virtual violence increases aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, there has been little public action to help mitigate children’s exposure to it,” an AAP report, published today in the journal Pediatrics, states.

The authors point to decades of research that they say shows a link between exposure to violent video games and increased aggressive tendencies.

They also express frustration at the skepticism many maintain about the significance of that link.

“Some contend, rightly, that these correlations are in the small to moderate range, but they are stronger than the associations between passive smoking and lung cancer, and many municipalities have banned smoking because of that risk,” the authors write.

– Rose Rimler

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People With Autism Can Read Emotions, Feel Empathy

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There is a persistent stereotype that people with autism are individuals who lack empathy and cannot understand emotion. It’s true that many people with autism don’t show emotion in ways that people without the condition would recognize1.

But the notion that people with autism generally lack empathy and cannot recognize feelings is wrong. Holding such a view can distort our perception of these individuals and possibly delay effective treatments.

We became skeptical of this notion several years ago. In the course of our studies of social and emotional skills, some of our research volunteers with autism and their families mentioned to us that people with autism do display empathy.

Many of these individuals said they experience typical, or even excessive, empathy at times. One of our volunteers, for example, described in detail his intense empathic reaction to his sister’s distress at a family funeral.

Yet some of our volunteers with autism agreed that emotions and empathy are difficult for them.

– Rebecca Brewer

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Do Vitamins And Supplements Make Antidepressants More Effective?

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The multibillion-dollar supplement industry spews many dubious claims, but a new study suggests that some nutritional supplements, including omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, may boost the effectiveness of antidepressants. If so, the supplements might help relieve symptoms for the millions of people who don’t immediately respond to these drugs.

The meta-analysis—published Tuesday in the American Journal of Psychiatry—reviewed the results of 40 clinical trials that evaluated the effects of taking nutritional supplements in conjunction with several major classes of antidepressants. It revealed that four supplements in particular upped the potency of the medications, compared with a placebo.

For brain health, all—or at least most—roads lead to the sea.  Many small trials have reported associations between omega-3 fatty acids—obtained either through diet or supplements—and improved depression symptoms. In practice, omega-3s derived from fish appear to reach significantly higher blood levels than those sourced from plants. And there is a fast accumulating body of data linking a reduced risk for depression to traditional diets—including the Mediterranean, Scandinavian and Japanese diets—that are high in vegetables, whole grains and fish.

– Bret Stetka

Read more: Do Vitamins and Supplements Make Antidepressants More Effective? – Scientific American

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Physical Health Neglected In Mentally Ill Young People

Posted on by Imogen
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It took two-and-a-half years of intense joint pain for Maddison O’Gradey Lee for doctors to take the teenager’s concerns seriously.

The pain was “agony”, Ms O’Gradey Lee, 18, said.

Her doctors said it was a byproduct of her anxiety disorder. “One doctor actually said, ‘It’s all in your head’,” she said.

Convinced she had fabricated her affliction, she worried she had wasted her family’s time and money on the consultations.

With the support of her mother, she finally had the scans to explain the pain – at 14 she had inflammation in her back and hip joints that was consistent with arthritis. The condition degenerates the joints with each year if not treated correctly.

“It could have such detrimental effects on a young person,” she said.

Ms O’Gradey Lee’s story is one of many where physical health is compromised because of a focus on mental health.

– Swetha Das

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Workaholism Tied To Psychiatric Disorders

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Taking work to the extreme may be a sign of deeper psychological or emotional issues. Whether this reflects overlapping genetic vulnerabilities, disorders leading to workaholism or, conversely, workaholism causing such disorders, remain uncertain.

In wait for more research, physicians should not take for granted that a seemingly successful workaholic does not have ADHD-related or other clinical features. Their considerations affect both the identification and treatment of these disorders.

– Kim E. Andreassen

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Should Happiness Be Part Of The School Curriculum?

Posted on by Imogen
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Meditation is just one strand of new “positive education” methods starting to build momentum and gravitas in schools. The key idea is to teach good practices such as mindfulness and gratitude that will promote resilience and, it is thought, help children lead healthier psychological lives.

Until recently, these might have been dismissed as woolly theories but with children’s happiness now in the spotlight owing to high levels of self-harm, attempted suicide and other mental health problems, they are starting to be taken more seriously.

Promoting happiness in schools isn’t new but convincing education leaders of its benefits has taken a lot longer.

Headteacher Anthony Seldon was widely criticised when he introduced the first “wellbeing curriculum” at Wellington College a decade ago. Wellbeing, it was felt, was antagonistic to academic achievement. And despite the success of the programme – Wellington soared up the league tables “quicker than any school in history” over the next nine years – Hunter reports that her colleagues were initially sceptical about her happiness programme.

– Olivia Parker

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New Study Of High-risk Teens Reveals A Biological Pathway For Depression

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A long line of research links poverty and depression. Now, a study by Duke University scientists shows how biology might underlie the depression experienced by high-risk adolescents whose families are socio-economically disadvantaged.

The study, published May 24, 2016 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, combined genetics, brain imaging and behavioral data gathered as adolescents were followed for more than three years as part of a larger study.

The results are part of a growing body of work that may lead to biological predictors that could guide individualized -prevention strategies.

Adolescents growing up in households with lower were shown to accumulate greater quantities of a chemical tag on a depression-linked gene over the course of two years. These “epigenetic” tags work by altering the activity of genes. The more chemical tags an individual had near a gene called SLC6A4, the more responsive was their amygdala—a brain area that coordinates the body’s reactions to threat—to photographs of fearful faces as they underwent functional MRI brain scans. Participants with a more active amygdala were more likely to later report symptoms of depression.

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Middle Class And Addicted To Ice

Posted on by Imogen
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Two years ago, Melbourne man Jarrod was aged in his early 30s. From a middle class background, he had been privately educated, achieved a university degree, married and had a daughter. He was an IT executive and worked long hours, but had plenty of friends to spend time with on the weekends.

He was also an ice addict.

Sitting at a rehab facility in Sydney, Jarrod is now two years clean. It has been a difficult journey through detox, rehab, a marriage breakdown, loss of his profession and what he calls a “wholesale” shift in how he views his life, to get to this point.

He is telling his story in order to contradict the prevailing idea of a methamphetamine addict — someone with open sores on their face, wrapped up in a psychosis-fuelled violent rampage, huddled in a squat and doing anything to score.

His story is that of the white collar ice addict.

– Nicolette Louge

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