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Take a Break to Learn Better

What’s New in Psychology?

Take a Break to Learn Better

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Bacteria in the Gut and Babies’ Fear

What’s New in Psychology?

Bacteria in the Gut and Babies’ Fear

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A New Explanation for Memory Loss as an Early Symptom of Alzheimer’s

What New in Psychology?

A New Explanation for Memory Loss as an Early Symptom of Alzheimer’s

 Jim Windell

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Early Childhood Education Shapes the Adult Brain

What’s New in Psychology?

Early Childhood Education Shapes the Adult Brain

Jim Windell

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Long-term Effects of Concussion on Kids

What New in Psychology?

Long-term Effects of Concussion on Kids

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A Way to Cut the Risk of Depression

What’s New in Psychology?

A Way to Cut the Risk of Depression

Jim Windell

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Eating mushrooms may reduce the risk of cognitive decline

What New in Psychology?

Eating mushrooms may reduce the risk of cognitive decline

 
By Jim Windell
 
           Okay, we know that fruits and vegetables are good for you. And there is research that suggests that eating grapes and blueberries are important antioxidants and good sources of Vitamin C. Additionally, a regular fish diet, chocolate consumption and a handful of nuts daily may stave off the ravages of age-related cognitive decline.
           But researchers at the National University of Singapore, publishing online in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, think another food may help as well.
           A six-year study conducted from 2011 to 2017, collected data from more than 600 Chinese seniors over the age of 60 living in Singapore. The research was carried out with support from the Life Sciences Institute and the Mind Science Centre at NUS, as well as the Singapore Ministry of Health's National Medical Research Council.
           A team of researchers from the Department of Psychological Medicine and Department of Biochemistry at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore (NUS) found that participants who consumed more than two standard portions of mushrooms weekly had as much as 50 per cent reduced odds of having mild cognitive impairment (MCI). In the study, a portion was defined as three quarters of a cup of cooked mushrooms with an average weight of around 150 grams. Two portions would be equivalent to approximately half a plate. While the portion sizes act as a guideline, it was shown that even one small portion of mushrooms a week may still be beneficial to reduce chances of MCI.
           MCI is typically viewed as the stage between the cognitive decline of normal ageing and the more serious decline of dementia. Seniors afflicted with MCI often display some form of memory loss or forgetfulness and may also show deficit on other cognitive functions, such as language, attention and visuospatial abilities. However, changes related to MCI can be subtle, as many people experiencing MCI do not experience disabling cognitive deficits that affect everyday life activities, which is characteristic of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.
           According to Assistant Professor Lei Feng, who is from the NUS Department of Psychological Medicine and the lead author of this work, "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 neuropsychological tests than other people of the same age and education background." The neuropsychological tests used in the study helped to measure various aspects of the participant’s cognitive abilities. Some of the tests were adopted from the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale.
In addition to the neuropsychological tests, the researchers conducted extensive interviews with the senior citizens to help determine an accurate diagnosis. "The interview takes into account demographic information, medical history, psychological factors, and dietary habits,” said Assistant Professor Feng.  Also, a nurse measured blood pressure, weight, height, handgrip, and walking speed. After a two-hour standard neuropsychological assessment was performed, along with a dementia rating, the overall results of these tests were discussed in depth with psychiatrists involved in the study to get a diagnostic consensus.
           The results were somewhat surprising to the research team. "This correlation is surprising and encouraging,” said Feng. “It seems that a commonly available single ingredient could have a dramatic effect on cognitive decline."
           The mushrooms noted in the study were six commonly consumed mushrooms in Singapore, and included golden, oyster, shiitake and white button mushrooms, as well as dried and canned mushrooms. The researchers, however, believe that other mushrooms may also have beneficial effects. They also think the reason for the reduced prevalence of MCI in mushroom eaters may be due to a specific compound found in almost all varieties. That compound is called ergothioneine (ET).
           "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," noted Dr Irwin Cheah, Senior Research Fellow at the NUS Department of Biochemistry.
           But other compounds found in mushrooms may also be advantageous for decreasing the risk of cognitive decline. Certain hericenones, erinacines, scabronines and dictyophorines may promote the synthesis of nerve growth factors. Bioactive compounds in mushrooms may also protect the brain from neurodegeneration by inhibiting production of beta amyloid and phosphorylated tau, and acetylcholinesterase.
While the researchers plan to do further research with ET and other plant-based ingredients, for the time being, it appears that mushrooms may help reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
           Which means, of course, when you order your next pizza, make sure you ask for extra mushrooms.














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Lower Your Stress with More Fruits and Veggies?

What’s New in Psychology?

Lower Your Stress with More Fruits and Veggies?

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Do Children Show Traits of Overconfidence in their Abilities?

What’s New in Psychology?

Do Children Show Traits of Overconfidence in their Abilities?

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Commonalities Shared by Polarized Brains

What’s New in Psychology?

Commonalities Shared by Polarized Brains

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What Lessons Can Be Learned from the Australian Firearm Regulation?

What’s New in Psychology?

What Lessons Can Be Learned from the Australian Firearm Regulation?

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A Mediterranean Diet Might Protect You Against Memory Loss and Dementia

What’s New in Psychology?

A Mediterranean Diet Might Protect You Against Memory Loss and Dementia

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Childhood Psychiatric Symptoms May be Linked to Exposure During Pregnancy

Childhood Psychiatric Symptoms May be Linked to Exposure During Pregnancy

Jim Windell

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Why Didn’t Someone Stop Derek Chauvin?

Why Didn’t Someone Stop Derek Chauvin?

Jim Windell

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Where You Live Might Affect Your Brain, Too

Where You Live Might Affect Your Brain, Too

Jim Windell

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Spanking May Change the Brain of a Child

Spanking May Change the Brain of a Child

Jim Windell

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The Facts About Alcohol and Young People

The Facts About Alcohol and Young People

Jim Windell

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Is There Hope After the Pandemic?

Is There Hope After the Pandemic?


Jim Windell
           

           We’re not out of the woods yet with the coronavirus pandemic. But millions of us are vaccinated and there is the possibility of a return to a less socially-distanced life in the next few months.
            However, living through the pandemic has been traumatic for many people – not only in the U.S., but around the world. After all, millions suffered from getting the virus and a half a million Americans died. Those deaths, because of restrictions, have – for the most part – been unmourned. In effect, nearly everyone has been touched by the virus. That means that trauma and PTSD have been rampant.
            But is there hope of a rebound? Will we all recover? Could there even be post-traumatic growth?
            A number of writers have tackled these questions lately. I read several articles for this blog. Among the stories I read were articles by Chery Glaser (KCRW Podcast), Jane Mai Ngo (Rewired) and Marco della Cava (USA Today) – and I drew from all of these to summarize what many experts are saying about the future.  
            Dr. Michael Wilkes, professor of medicine and global health at UC Davis, notes that if we consider the coronavirus pandemic as a disaster then we may have passed through the worst of this catastrophe and may actually be in a reconstruction phase. This means that we may be, just like those who have experienced the devastation of a bombing or an earthquake, looking to rebuild and establish a new beginning.    
            While Dr. Wilkes acknowledges that each of us may be in different personal or community circumstances, many of us are thinking about positive changes that we've made during the pandemic and which we want to maintain as we anticipate a pandemic-free life in the next several months. Wilkes points out that while some people have found that their relationships have been challenged, others have reconnected with old friends and acquaintances. Others have developed new hobbies and developed new routines.
            Referring to the concepts of Tedeschi and Calhoun, Wilkes says that these two psychologists introduced the concept of post-traumatic growth and that they found that people who endure psychological struggles following some adversity often see positive growth afterwards. “We can come to appreciate life in new ways, build new relationships and connections, develop new hobbies and learning opportunities, identify strengths, and perhaps even find some spiritual change,” Wilkes said.
           Talking recently to Marco della Cava, Richard Tedeschi said that to achieve post-traumatic growth, sufferers of trauma must first recognize and accept the ways in which core beliefs have been shattered by an event. If people accept that an emotional earthquake has occurred, Tedeschi said, “That allows humans to grow in five specific domains: appreciation of life, relationships with others, new possibilities in life, personal strength and spiritual change.”
           Tedeschi, professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and distinguished chair at the Boulder Crest Institute for Posttraumatic Growth, went on to say that positive change in those five areas begins with the necessary reconstruction of core beliefs; core beliefs such as the predictability and controllability of life – beliefs and ideas that perhaps prior to the traumatic event often went either unexamined or were taken for granted. Tedeschi noted that the journey to growth can take years and on average only half of trauma sufferers truly succeed. And for some groups, for instance, communities of color, such change may prove particularly difficult to come by given the disproportionate impact of COVID-19.
           "Shared trauma can initiate post-traumatic growth in communities or whole societies,” Tedeschi said, “and we will be witnessing that in the near future as this pandemic resolves and we see what remains."
           While millions of Americans are being vaccinated almost every day, it is far from clear as to when the nation will bounce back from COVID-19. There is no question that the desire to rebound is strong. Governors of most states have lifted restrictions, despite new surges and rising hospitalizations in some areas. Certainly, most Americans seem tired of restrictions as well as financial challenges and various losses – of friends and a familiar way of life. Many are eager to resume travel, full employment, vacations and being with friends.
           “Appreciation for life may occur in someone who recovers from a serious case of COVID-19,” says Tedeschi. “Changes in relationships may happen for people who experience caring and kindness in their struggles. Spiritual changes could happen as a person shifts perspective on how life can seem random. Personal strength could come to people who rode out challenges as first responders, and new possibilities may be recognized by those forced to shift into new employment.”
           Bouncing back, according to some economists, might even mean a return from the calamitous impacts of COVID-19 and the emergence of a new Roaring ‘20s – just as our country experienced following World War I and the Spanish flu pandemic. The Roaring 20s saw a fiscal and cultural explosion in the country.
           “When this plague ends, you’ll have something very similar as people relentlessly search each other out and there is sexual licentiousness, an economic boom and a blossoming of the arts,” said Nicholas Christakis, a professor of social and natural science at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.
           However, Christakis, author of “Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live,” sounds a note of caution as the buoyancy of a Roaring 20s might still be a few years away. He suggests 2024 as the most likely time when this boom occurs.
           “First, we’ll have the intermediate period lasting a few years, where we’re dealing with the economic shock of the virus, the impact to education, and a toll of both the dead and the millions disabled by COVID-19,” he said. “We’ll have to mop up. That’ll take time.”
           Also taking time will be confronting the trauma we’ve been through. It generally takes time to deal with the experiences of a disaster.
           “If you’re able to purposefully think about what happened to you and make some meaning of it, that can lead you to a higher level than before,” said Whitney Dominick, a social psychologist at Oakland University in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Dominick is in the process of conducting research on whether individuals impacted by COVID-19 have experienced post-traumatic growth over the past six months. Dominick says that early findings show that while growth overall has not been detected, many people studied did report improvements in the areas of personal strength and new possibilities.
           Michael Wilkes says there are steps to take to find positive outcomes to the pandemic. “I guess the first strategy is to pause for self-reflection and ask ourselves how am I doing? Am I feeling isolated? Are my relationships suffering? What has helped me cope?” he says.
           Wilkes also points out that we need to be alert to avoiding maladaptive coping. Maladaptive coping, he says, could mean working around the clock without breaks or without checking in with family or friends. It could also mean using drugs or alcohol, or constantly being angry. “Part of the growth is knowing where we are, and having compassion for ourselves,” Wilkes says. He adds that we need to show ourselves the grace we deserve in having weathered this incredible storm over the past year or so. “It's easier sometimes to do it for others than it is to do it for ourselves.”
 
           Psychologist Richard Tedeschi says that it is critical for those seeking post-traumatic growth to find an "expert companion" – a nonjudgmental sounding board with whom to share thoughts and progress.
 
           “In explaining what you’re feeling to them, you get a better understanding of yourself,” he says. “This is not an easy process; it is a struggle. But with work, you start to see a forward-looking story to your life. You can start to write the novel about yourself, instead of being on autopilot and letting life happen to you.”
























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Sugar and Spice and Everything Not So Nice?

Sugar and Spice and Everything Not So Nice?

 Jim Windell

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Are We close to Learning to Weaken Fear Memories?

Are We close to Learning to Weaken Fear Memories?

 Jim Windell

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