Mind

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When a smell evokes a memory

<p>In an episode of the popular TV series Black Mirror called <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.vox.com/culture/2017/12/29/16808458/black-mirror-crocodile-recap-season-4-review" target="_blank">Crocodile</a>, an investigator asks a witness to smell a bottle of beer. The aim is to refresh her memory of a crime scene (the crime took place near a brewery).</p> <p>This might not exactly be standard practice, but our sense of smell, or olfaction, is known for its ability to elicit memories. We all know the feeling. A whiff of a particular scent can take you back to your grandmother’s kitchen, the night of your first dance, or the sea shore.</p> <p>And think of “scent marketing”, where brand designers infuse “signature scents”, for example in fashion stores and hotel lobbies, to enhance brand recognition across the globe.</p> <p>Neuroscientists studying olfaction have long wondered about <a rel="noopener" href="https://doi.org/10.1016/s0166-2236(03)00076-6" target="_blank">the connection</a> between our sense of smell and memory. Is this relationship between memory and olfaction a result of the way the brain is wired? A study recently published in the journal <em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04242-3" target="_blank">Nature</a></em> has broken important ground towards answering this longstanding question.</p> <p>Before we look at the study, some background about how the brain facilitates our sense of smell. Scent molecules are initially detected by receptor neurons in the nose. The neurons send information about these encounters first to the <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.britannica.com/science/olfactory-bulb" target="_blank">olfactory bulb</a>, a brain structure about the size of your fingertip located above the nasal cavity.</p> <p>The olfactory bulb then sends signals to another brain structure called the <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/piriform-cortex" target="_blank">piriformk cortex</a>. It is believed odour recognition happens there – that is, we identify its potential source, like an apple, a banana, or freshly cut grass.</p> <p><strong>What the researchers did</strong></p> <p>To study how the brain combines olfactory and spatial information, Cindy Poo and her colleagues at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown in Portugal had six rats complete a navigation task.</p> <p>The rats had to repeatedly navigate a cross-shaped map with four corridors, as shown in the video below from about the two-and-a-half minute mark. At the beginning of each trial a light would point the rat down one of the corridors, where it would be exposed at random to one of four distinct smells (citrus, grass, banana or vinegar). The location of a water reward was dependent on which odour the rat was exposed to.</p> <p>For example, the citrus odour meant the water reward was at the end of the south corridor. If the rat was exposed to the citrus smell in the east corridor, it would need to travel south for the reward. If it received the smell in the south corridor in the first instance, it could stay put and receive the reward. The idea was that with practice, a given smell would signal to the rat the location of the reward.</p> <p><iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/BunEBiU3MO0?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>The surroundings of the maze were decorated with visual landmarks so the rats could also orientate themselves based on those landmarks. However, the rats’ starting point was different in each trial. If it had been fixed, they could theoretically just have memorised a sequence of turns to find the correct corridor, and not used any spatial memory at all. This meant that completing the task successfully relied on a combination of spatial navigation and olfaction.</p> <p>After about three weeks of training the rats did quite well; they were able to locate the water reward in roughly 70% of trials. This indicates that the rats were able to combine their internal map of the environment with locations of smells to locate the reward.</p> <p><strong>Looking at neuron activity</strong></p> <p>Neurons in the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in memory and navigation, are known for functioning as “place cells”. These are cells which <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/medicine/2014/summary/" target="_blank">become active</a> at a specific location in an environment, which allows us to find our way around. Similar cells are also found in another part of the brain called the entorhinal cortex.</p> <p>The most striking finding of the new study is that such location-selective cells are not only present in the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex, but also in a brain area linked primarily to olfactory function, namely the piriform cortex, the place thought to be primarily responsible for odour recognition.</p> <p>The researchers in the study monitored the electrical activity of neurons in this area. Surprisingly, they found that only around 30% of neurons in this region of the rats’ brains responded to specific odours. Another 30% of neurons fired in response to both a particular smell and location.</p> <p>The remaining 40% of active neurons did not respond to specific odours at all, but rather to the locations where the rats had previously smelt the odours. These location-selective neurons would even start to fire when the rats were only just entering the corridor, before encountering any smell.</p> <p>The researchers then wanted to understand whether the hippocampus and piriform cortex “talked” to each other while the rats were solving the puzzle. They found that cells in both regions tended to fire in synchrony while the rats were navigating the maze.</p> <p><strong>So what does this tell us?</strong></p> <p>These results show that the olfactory system may play a role in spatial navigation, and that spatial memory and olfactory information converge in the piriform cortex. But why has the brain evolved to represent location and odour in the same area?</p> <p>The answer could be that odours are very useful clues for finding our way around. For example, a pine forest smells different from a meadow, while a fox’s burrow has a different smell to a rat’s nest. The rule holds even in man-made environments: an underground rail system smells different from a supermarket, an office different from a restaurant.</p> <p>So our brains might be wired to associate smells with places because this has been useful in our evolutionary past.</p> <p>This study was conducted in rats, which rely more on their sense of smell for navigation than humans do, since our perception is dominated by vision. But these findings do give new insights about how olfaction and spatial memory are likely connected in the human brain.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/174477/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-schmuker-175218" target="_blank">Michael Schmuker</a>, Professor of Neural Computation, <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-hertfordshire-799" target="_blank">University of Hertfordshire</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com" target="_blank">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/when-a-smell-evokes-a-memory-new-research-offers-clues-about-how-the-two-are-linked-in-the-brain-174477" target="_blank">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

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Daunted by therapy? Virtual reality could be the answer

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;"> If opening up to a therapist seems like a near-impossible task, new research shows that you’re not the only one - and proposes a new option that could soon be available.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A study from Edith Cowan University, published in </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/frvir.2021.750729/full" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Frontiers in Virtual Reality</span></a></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">, found that 30 percent of people surveyed would rather talk about negative experiences with a virtual reality (VR) avatar than a real-life person.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Researchers created a ‘realistic motion avatar’ that appeared similar to its real-life counterpart, then compared the social interactions between people talking to the avatar versus a real person.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Participants then rated their experience on factors such as enjoyment, comfort, awkwardness, perceived understanding, and how much they think they disclosed about themselves.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Dr Shane Rogers, a psychology and communication researcher involved in the study, said participants found VR and face-to-face interactions to be quite similar in all but one way.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Overall, people rated VR social interaction as similar to face-to-face interaction, with the exception of closeness, where people tended to feel a little closer with each other when face-to-face,” Dr Rogers </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.scimex.org/newsfeed/virtual-reality-could-help-make-therapy-easier" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">said</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“This technology has the potential for broad application across a number of areas such as casual conversation, business, tourism, education and therapy,” he said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The study found that 30 percent of people preferred disclosing negative experiences via VR. This means that therapy might be opened up to new people who don’t feel comfortable with traditional face-to-face interactions.”</span></p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height:281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7846832/vr1.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/b6881ee566e74d5ba66c6e6a0c91129a" /></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Virtual reality has been used in video games for several years now, but new research shows it can also be used in mental health settings. Image: Getty Images</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though VR has been around for several years, the new research is among several new studies and initiatives applying the technology to treat mental health conditions.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In the United States, veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are being treated with the assistance of VR, which can transport them back to traumatic experiences - even if they struggle to remember the event or other details.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The tech has also been used in “empathy training”, where clinicians wear VR headsets to better understand what patients in their care are experiencing, particularly for veterans with dementia or older LGBTQ veterans.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Now what you hear and what you see in front of your eyes is the same thing as a patient who’s experiencing dementia or an LGBTQ vertan who’s ageing,” Anne Lord Bailey, a pharmacist and director of clinical tech innovation involved in the scheme, told </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://fedtechmagazine.com/article/2021/12/how-va-using-vr-veterans-therapy-perfcon" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">FedTech</span></a></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“All of a sudden, people start talking to you and what you hear is muddled, or your vision doesn’t see what you should be seeing. It looks distorted, or I can’t hear things because they’re not clear, even though I can tell that people are talking to me. Or, I get disoriented: I try to turn to the right, and things are shifty or crooked.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Meanwhile, the UK NHS launched a treatment plan last year using VR to treat patients with trypanophobia, or a phobia of needles, ahead of their Covid vaccinations. Patients are treated by being exposed to scenarios such as a medical waiting room or blood draw, to help therapists treat patients’ fears in a controlled environment.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“VR is very effective at bridging the gap between real-life exposure and what the patient feels able to do at the time they enter treatment,” Vanessa Dodds, a cognitive behavioural therapist involved in the UK program, told </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.medicaldevice-network.com/news/needle-phobia-vr/" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Medical Device Network</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Dr Rogers echoed this sentiment, adding that improvements in the technology will improve its affordability and accessibility as a treatment option - with applications beyond therapy as well.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It might also enable therapists to conduct therapy more effectively at a distance, as a person can be in the therapist room (in virtual reality) while seated in their own home,” he said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“More powerful computers are becoming more affordable, VR headsets are continuing to develop, and more user-friendly VR interaction software platforms are becoming more available and being updated.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Following the work by Dr Rogers and his colleagues, future steps will involve more investigation of how different aspects of the avatar affect user experience, as well as how VR can be used in therapeutic settings.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p>

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Life-changing infra-red treatment for Parkinson's sufferers

<p><em>Image: 7News</em></p> <p>A new treatment for Parkinson’s disease is set to be trialled in Sydney following reports of positive results using light therapy.</p> <p>Results from a previous light therapy trial in Adelaide published in the<span> </span><em>BMC Neurology</em><span> </span>journal, showed enhanced senses and improved cognition, mood and sleep, mobility, balance, and fine motor skills among patients.</p> <p>The SYMBYX trial conducted with Parkinson’s SA, used the light therapy known as photobiomodulation (PBM) on two small groups of patients, all diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.</p> <p>The study reports no adverse side effects and that the therapy was “a safe and potentially effective treatment”. Parkinson’s disease is an incurable, progressive neurological illness which effects between 10-15 million people worldwide.</p> <p>It’s the world’s fastest growing neurological disease, with symptoms including tremors, muscle rigidity, difficulty walking and swallowing, loss of smell, depression and anxiety.</p> <p>Caused by a lack of dopamine, a chemical produced by both the brain and the gut to help promote and control body movement, the light therapy treatments work by stimulating dopamine production in the gut.</p> <p>For 75-year-old Parkinson’s sufferer Margaret Jarrett, who has been a participant in medical trials of the infra-red relief, the results have been a welcome relief. She used a laser light device clinically for 12 weeks, and for 40 weeks from home.</p> <p>“I don’t know how it’s happening, but it’s happening and that’s all I care about,” she said.</p> <p>“Some people regained their sense of smell, some people have improved sleep, and some people had improved microbiomes. So, improved gut health,” Parkinson’s SA executive Olivia Nassaris said of the treatment.</p> <p>Those already suffering with Parkinson’s don’t need to wait for the trial results, as there are light therapy products from SYMBYX already available on the market. “It is legal and regulated and it’s available for purchase”, Dr Wayne Markman, CEO of SYMBYX an Australian medical technology company told 7NEWS.</p> <p>Light technology is just the latest in research to support the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.</p>

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7 clues anyone can use to spot a liar

<p><strong>Is their face giving it away?</strong></p> <p><span>You may think a smile can easily disguise your true feelings, but the expressions that flash across a liar’s face will give away what they are really thinking – whether they know it or not. Experts advise paying close attention to hard-to-hide micro-expressions; these clues are often so difficult to detect that even trained experts have trouble discerning them. But you may be able to spot a liar by the red colour on their cheeks since anxiety can cause people to blush. Other ways to tell if someone is lying? Flared nostrils, lip nibbling, deep breathing and rapid blinking, which hint that the brain is working overtime.</span></p> <p><strong>Does the body language follow the story?</strong></p> <p><span>It’s more important to examine a person’s entire demeanour, as there’s no one feature that’s apt to give away how to spot a liar. Honesty is characterised by features that are in sync with one another – so besides posture, note the fit between face, body, voice and speech. Like an animal avoiding detection, a liar may pull his arms and legs inward or keep his movements to a minimum – anything to appear smaller. Liars often shove their hands behind their back because those fidgety digits might give them away.</span></p> <p><strong>How is ther person smiling?</strong></p> <p><span>How to tell if someone is lying could come down to something as simple as a smile. A bright grin can sometimes mask a person’s true feelings. Pay close attention to how a person smiles as well as other facial movements. You may be able to detect the emotions he or she is trying to hide – such as fear, anger and disgust. A true smile will incorporate both a person’s lips and eyes.</span></p> <p><strong>How is the person speaking?</strong></p> <p><span>Although a change in voice can be the tip-off in how to spot a liar, experts say that to be sure, you should also pay attention to a person’s speech rate and breathing pattern – if it either speeds up or slows down, chances are you’re not hearing the whole truth.</span></p> <p><strong>What is the person saying?</strong></p> <p><span>Here’s how to tell if someone is lying; listen to their choice of words. Liars tend to avoid exclusionary words like “but,” “nor,” “except,” and “whereas,” because they have trouble with complex thought processes. Also, they are less likely to use the words “I,” “me,” and “mine.” In their attempts to distance themselves psychologically from their tall tales, liars will tend to communicate using fewer personal pronouns.</span></p> <p><strong>Is your subject behaving uncharacteristically?</strong></p> <p><span>Experts believe changes in a person’s baseline – how they generally conduct themselves – are worthy of your attention for how to spot a liar. You should weigh the rate of speech, the tone of voice, posture and hand gestures against what you know, along with the context of the situation. When your husband says “I loved the tie you bought me” while he’s wearing a tight smile that doesn’t reach his eyes, expect to see him in a turtleneck.</span></p> <p><strong>Is the question simple or embarrassing?</strong></p> <p>It’s normal for someone to look away when asked a difficult question. But when someone avoids your gaze when asked a simple question, you should be suspicious.</p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">This article first appeared in </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/true-stories-lifestyle/relationships/7-clues-anyone-can-use-to-spot-a-liar" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reader’s Digest</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </span><a rel="noopener" href="http://readersdigest.innovations.com.au/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA87V" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">here’s our best subscription offer.</span></a></em></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

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8 bipolar symptoms you might be ignoring

<p><strong>What is bipolar disorder?</strong></p> <p><span>There are two commonly diagnosed types of bipolar disorder, a mental illness characterised by mood swings from emotional highs to lows. People with bipolar I have depression alternating with severely elevated mood, or mania. Bipolar II is much more common, and is marked by less severe manic symptoms, called hypomania. Since the characteristics of bipolar disorder exist along a spectrum ranging from non-existent to extreme, and because good or bad moods can be a result of temporary events or circumstances rather than a mental illness, diagnosis of bipolar disorder can be difficult. These signs will reveal if you’re going through a phase or revealing bipolar symptoms.</span></p> <p><strong>You're downright depressed</strong></p> <p><span>A bipolar person in a depressive state will have the same symptoms as someone who has only depression. “They have the same problems with energy, appetite, sleep, and focus as others who have ‘plain old depression,’” psychiatrist, Dr Don Malone, tells </span><em>Health</em><span>. The period of mania, or elevated mood, that follows the depression is what differentiates a bipolar diagnosis. It’s important to discuss fluctuations in mood with your therapist because the treatment for depression will be different from bipolar disorder treatment. “Antidepressants can be downright dangerous in people with bipolar because they can send them into mania,” says Dr Malone. Signs of depression include: feeling sad or hopeless for long periods of time, withdrawal from family or friends, lack of interest in activities you used to enjoy, significant changes in appetite, lack of energy, slow speech, problems concentrating, and preoccupation with death.</span></p> <p><strong>You can't sleep</strong></p> <p><span>It’s common to have periods of insomnia due to stress or anticipation of something exciting on the horizon. But someone in a manic phase of bipolar disorder will require significantly less sleep than usual (sometimes none at all) for days at a time – and still feel energised. During a depressive phase, a person may sleep for longer than usual. Professor of psychiatry, Dr Carrie Bearden, tells </span><em>Health</em><span> that staying on a regular sleep schedule is one of the first things she recommends for bipolar patients.</span></p> <p><strong>You're in a great mood - a really, really great mood!</strong></p> <p><span>Who wouldn’t love to be in a great mood? And why would anyone see that as a sign of mental illness? “These phases of the disorder may actually be enjoyable to the individual because they allow for increased productivity and creativity that they normally might not experience,” says psychiatrist, Dr Smitha Murthy. But if the mood elevation is extreme, there is no apparent cause for it, it lasts for a week or longer, or it appears in combination with other symptoms, it may be one of your bipolar symptoms. Hypomania, characteristic of bipolar II, may be even harder to differentiate from a generally good mood because the symptoms are milder. Look for a combination of elevated mood with other bipolar symptoms, especially in a repetitive cycle that alternates with depression.</span></p> <p><strong>You get distracted easily</strong></p> <p><span>Trouble concentrating, a tendency to jump from task to task, or being generally unable to finish projects may be attributed to flightiness, stress, or other factors. But if you’re so distracted that you’re unable to get anything done, and it’s interfering with your work or relationships, you might be showing bipolar symptoms, says Dr Murthy.</span></p> <p><strong>You're unusually irritable</strong></p> <p><span>“This is one of the trickiest symptoms to recognise since it’s a natural reaction to frustration or unfairness,” says Dr James Phelps. Getting upset that someone cut you off on the highway, for example, is pretty normal. “Anger out of proportion to the situation, rising too fast, getting out of control, lasting for hours, and shifting from one person to another, would differentiate the behaviour as a possible bipolar symptom,” he says.</span></p> <p><strong>You talk - and think - fast</strong></p> <p><span>A “chatty Cathy” is not abnormal, says Dr Phelps. “But talking so fast that others can’t keep up or understand – especially in phases with other bipolar symptoms, may be hypomania,” he adds. Someone in a manic state may not even let another person get a word in. This type of rapid speech is especially concerning if a person doesn’t speak this way typically. Similarly, racing thoughts or ideas that come so quickly that others – and even you yourself – may not be able to keep up may be indicative of mania.</span></p> <p><strong>You're extremely confident - but don't make good decisions</strong></p> <p><span>Normally, high self-esteem is a good thing. In a person with bipolar disorder, excessive confidence could lead to poor decisions. “They feel grandiose and don’t consider consequences; everything sounds good to them,” Dr Malone told Health. This may lead to taking risks and engaging in erratic behaviour you ordinarily wouldn’t attempt, like having an affair or spending thousands of dollars you can’t afford to spend.</span></p> <p><strong>Drug and alcohol use</strong></p> <p><span>“People with bipolar disorder have a higher than average rate of a co-occurring substance or alcohol use,” says Dr Murthy. They may try to calm themselves with alcohol or drugs during a manic phase, or use them to cheer up during a depression.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Written by Ilisa Cohen. This article first appeared in </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/healthsmart/8-bipolar-symptoms-you-might-be-ignoring" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reader’s Digest</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </span><a rel="noopener" href="http://readersdigest.innovations.com.au/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA87V" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">here’s our best subscription offer.</span></a></em></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

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8 ways patience improves your health – and tricks to keeping it

<p><strong>It's easier on your heart</strong></p> <p><span>In general, those with “Type A” personality and people who have high levels of hostility are both thought to possess low levels of patience, says clinical psychologist Dr Christopher Lootens. “Findings have indicated that people in either of those groups have significantly increased risk of heart disease, suggesting a link between patience and decreased heart risks,” Dr Lootens says.</span></p> <p><strong>It relaxes your body and mind</strong></p> <p><span>Dr Lootens says effects of impatience can cause laboured breathing, increased muscle tension, verbal or nonverbal hostility, and more. He suggests using coping methods to “reverse” that behaviour in the moment. “This would include relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, muscle relaxation, or pleasant imagery,” he says.</span></p> <p><strong>Reframe your thinking</strong></p> <p><span>For example, if you become impatient while waiting in line at the supermarket, Dr Lootens suggests that you take a look around and recognise that everyone has to wait and let this become part of your thought process. Say to yourself, “I’d love to be served immediately, but that isn’t always realistic. I’ll be fine if I have to wait five minutes.”</span></p> <p><strong>Practise mindfulness</strong></p> <p><span>Mindfulness is the practice of stopping and observing without judgment, says Wendy Whitsett, a professional counsellor. “Mindfulness allows us to be present in the moment,” she says. There are multiple ways to practice mindfulness, with a goal to gain patience, even if just for a few minutes at a time. “You can use your five senses to help you start a mindfulness practice,” says Whitsett. “It can be as simple as watching the sunset and taking the time to stop and be present in that moment.”</span></p> <p><strong>Cultivate empathy</strong></p> <p><span>Patience helps to build empathy, because when you are patient with others, you learn tolerance and are better able to understand the feelings of others, says Kimberly Hershenson, a therapist specialising in cognitive behavioural therapy.</span></p> <p><strong>Think before you speak or send an email</strong></p> <p><span>Hershenson suggests pausing before you speak or write something via email or text. “Sometimes we speak without considering the consequences, but if you take time to think about what you want to say, you can avoid hurting others,” she says.</span></p> <p><strong>Know your triggers</strong></p> <p><span>Take notice of what irritates you or escalates your feelings of impatience, says an article in </span><em>Psychology Today</em><span>. The article suggests individuals should know the signs of stress and what factors trigger their impatience.</span></p> <p><strong>Learn how to calm down</strong></p> <p><span>Most likely stressors are in your life, but according to the University of Michigan, you can implement coping skills to feel better. The article suggests ideas like exercise, taking a nature walk, playing with your pet or journal writing to reduce the effects of stress.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Written by Erica Lamberg. This article first appeared in </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/healthsmart/8-ways-patience-improves-your-health-and-tricks-to-keeping-it" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reader’s Digest</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </span><a rel="noopener" href="http://readersdigest.innovations.com.au/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA87V" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">here’s our best subscription offer.</span></a></em></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

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How to keep a gratitude journal, with 16 prompts to help you get started

<p><strong>Benefits of gratitude</strong></p> <p>Maybe you’ve heard about the potential benefits of practising gratitude or keeping a gratitude journal. You may have even been advised to keep a gratitude journal by a doctor, family, or friends.</p> <p>But are there any real benefits from keeping a gratitude journal? And how exactly does gratitude journaling work?</p> <p>Experts say there’s no wrong way to do gratitude exercises like keeping a gratitude journal, unless of course you’re focusing on negative things or things that can encourage shameful feelings.</p> <p>Here’s what the experts want you to know about why and how to keep a gratitude journal.</p> <p><strong>What is a gratitude journal?</strong></p> <p>According to experts, a gratitude journal is typically a journal or notepad where you jot down things for which you are grateful.</p> <p>This doesn’t need to be a notepad or journal, though; it can also include listing things for which you are grateful aloud or in your mind. Some smartphone apps even allow you to text or digitally enter things you are grateful for.</p> <p>“You can keep a gratitude journal on your phone, you could do it in a notebook, you could even just kind of take time to really think about those things,” says Laurie Santos, PhD, a professor of psychology.</p> <p>“All of these types of forms of engaging with a gratitude journal can really improve your wellbeing.”</p> <p><strong>What does research show about the effects of gratitude journaling?</strong></p> <p>Experts say the evidence is overwhelming: Keeping a gratitude journal is good for your health and overall well-being.</p> <p>“There’s lots and lots of studies basically suggesting that gratitude improves wellbeing,” Dr Santos says.</p> <p>“There’s evidence, for example, that people who are more grateful experience more benefits in terms of their self-regulation, they’re more likely to eat healthier, they’re more likely to save more for retirement,” she explains. “And there’s even evidence that people sleep better when they’re feeling more grateful.”</p> <p>Jane Wilson, PhD, says there are even more benefits of keeping a gratitude journal.</p> <p>“People who keep a gratitude journal experience more positive emotions such as love, joy, contentment, improved social connections, increased sense of inner peace, improved exercise and deepened sense of focus in learning,” Dr Wilson explains.</p> <p>“Keeping a gratitude journal strengthens one’s gratitude muscle,” she adds. “By strengthening one’s gratitude muscle, people will find they more quickly notice good things in life, and they’re better able to manage future stressful situations.”</p> <p><strong>What is gratitude?</strong></p> <p>Gratitude can have many definitions depending on whom you talk to. But according to Emiliana Simon-Thomas, PhD, gratitude is often defined into two basic ways.</p> <p>“Science defines gratitude in a couple of ways,” she says.</p> <p>“One way is reverence for that which is given. Recognising that all kinds of stuff around us every day has nothing to do with our effort, talents, our skills. It’s just there.”</p> <p>She says another way we define gratitude is as a specific emotional experience.</p> <p>“So how you feel that kind of warmth in your chest, that affectionate sentiment, when you are in a moment where someone has done something that’s really wonderful for you, you feel grateful right then and there is that sense of trust and connection, and social support,” she explains.</p> <p><strong>How do I make an entry in a gratitude journal?</strong></p> <p>Dr Simon-Thomas says the most simple way to make a gratitude diary entry, very generally, is to list sources of goodness that you enjoy in your life that you haven’t had to work toward or earn.</p> <p>“It can be as simple as running water that is drinkable from a tap, or can be really complex and detailed, like the role that a mentor in your life has played in advancing your professional career or by introducing you to a topic or a community that has been instrumental,” she explains.</p> <p>She says examples of this include gratitude for things many people take for granted, such as democracy, freedom, access to education and health care. “Those are really important kinds of gratitude,” she says, “and they do shift us toward a more optimistic view in the world.”</p> <p>Dr Wilson says she suggests beginning by pausing to reflect upon your day or week, taking a moment to savour a few blessings in your life, and then jotting the things you noticed or think of.</p> <p><strong>How often should you write in a gratitude journal?</strong></p> <p>Experts say there’s no hard and fast rule about how frequently to make entries in a gratitude journal to reap the benefits.</p> <p>Dr Simon-Thomas says there are some general patterns that seem to pop up like the suggestion to write three times a day, she adds, but that won’t work for everyone.</p> <p>If you’re more anxious person, maybe for you the best schedule for gratitude journaling is twice a day for two weeks. For some people who lean toward a more open-minded and flexible emotional demeanour, she says journaling once every other day for four weeks may be the most impactful.</p> <p>Some research suggests the ideal frequency to write in a gratitude journal seems to be around one to three entries per week for at least two weeks. Experts say this is likely because it can become easier to become numb to sources of goodness around us if we track it every day.</p> <p><strong>How much should you write in a gratitude journal?</strong></p> <p>According to the experts, any amount of expression or embracing of gratitude, including writing it down in a journal, can be beneficial. But most also agree that the more specific and in-depth an entry is, the more impact it tends to have.</p> <p>Dr Simon-Thomas says some people find it helpful to go into a lot of detail as to why they are grateful for something or how it made them feel. Some experts also advocate for the benefit of making extended entries that can be shared with others.</p> <p>“The most impactful gratitude practice is writing a gratitude letter to someone, around 300 to 500 words, and then reading it aloud to that person,” Dr Wilson says.</p> <p><strong>How long do you need to keep a gratitude journal to reap the benefits?</strong></p> <p>The jury is still out on exactly how long you need to keep a gratitude journal to reap the benefits.</p> <p>“There’s evidence, for example, that simply scribbling down a few things that you’re grateful for every day can significantly improve your wellbeing in as little as two weeks,” Dr Santos According to some experts, about 15 days is the period at which people start experiencing long-term benefits from gratitude journaling. But Dr Simon-Thomas says there are a lot of different statements out there about the relative period of time required, adding that some studies suggest just experiencing 30 to 60 seconds of gratitude, writing or reflection, can change how someone acts in the next moment, and in the next couple hours.</p> <p><strong>What is gratitude fatigue?</strong></p> <p>In general, experts say expressing and embracing gratitude, and keeping a gratitude journal, are good for the well-being of most people. But like most things, some people can experience gratitude fatigue, which may cause them to feel worse about their situation or life.</p> <p>“Some people experience gratitude fatigue if they find themselves writing down the same thing each time they open their journal,” Dr Wilson says. “To remedy this, look for new [or] surprising things you’re grateful for. Or … take a break from writing things down and resume the practice after a break.”</p> <p><strong>Writing prompts for gratitude journal entries</strong></p> <p>The experts say some people have no issue coming up with things they are grateful for, but this isn’t always an easy process for everyone. For some people, even trying to think of things they are grateful for, or not being able to come up with any, can be overwhelming and make you feel hopeless.</p> <p>If you’re having trouble thinking of entries to make in a gratitude journal, experts advise using basic prompts that help you get started in the process, although there is no perfect prompt for everyone or every situation. Some prompts may seem well-suited for a certain person or situation, but others may make someone feel worse, so choose what works for you.</p> <p>Examples of good prompts for gratitude journal entries include:</p> <ul> <li>I am grateful for a natural resource (water, food, clean air, sunlight).</li> <li>I am grateful for a component of the natural world (wildlife, mountains, bodies of water).</li> <li>I am grateful for modern comforts (running water, toilets, indoor heat, electricity, cars, airplanes, trains, grocery stores).</li> <li>I am grateful for institutions or services (hospitals and health care, education centres and education, emergency services like firefighters and natural disaster response services).</li> <li>I am grateful for a leisure activity (writing, reading, watching TV or movies).</li> <li>I am grateful my body is capable of … (walking, exercising, maintaining balance and posture, recovering from illness).</li> <li>I am grateful my brain is capable of … (thinking, being intelligent, being curious, having an imagination, learning new things, talking, coordinating body movement, remembering things and feelings).</li> <li>I am grateful for a stress-reducing activity (meditation, yoga, mindfulness, talking with friends and family).</li> <li>I am grateful I am alive now because … (modern amenities and comforts, scientific breakthroughs or advancements, ability to travel around the world, ability to connect with others easier).</li> <li>I am grateful for basic rights such as … (freedom, civil liberties, the right to receive education, expression of thought, the right to vote).</li> <li>I am grateful for something that someone did to help me or make me feel more secure.</li> <li>I am grateful for components of my work (respect of co-workers or bosses, benefits, positive impact of work on others or the environment, feelings of fulfillment or engagement).</li> <li>I am grateful to have certain people in my life.</li> <li>I am grateful for my pet because …</li> <li>I am grateful for a certain experience.</li> <li>I am grateful that something happened to me today.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Other tips for keeping a gratitude journal</strong></p> <ul> <li>Go for depth of entries versus quantity. It’s generally better to go into as much detail as possible about why you are grateful for something than generating a long, less detailed list.</li> <li>Try to not simply go through the motions. Keeping a gratitude journal is more effective if you first commit, and stay committed to, being more grateful, happy, or optimistic. A gratitude journal entry should not be viewed as a to-do list or something you have to do against your will.</li> <li>Don’t try to make any entry if you really aren’t ready or in a good space. Pushing yourself to simply make entries can actually make you feel worse or overwhelmed and may lead to entries that are negative or shaming.</li> <li>Don’t overdo it. Many people think you have to write in a gratitude journal every day to see positive effects. But writing once or twice per week long-term may be more beneficial than daily journaling.</li> <li>Think about subtractions, not only additions. One way to stimulate feelings of gratitude is to think about how your life would be affected without certain things, such as modern comforts, friends and family, meaningful work, etc. This approach can be especially effective if someone is having a hard time coming up with something they’re grateful for.</li> <li>Savour surprises. Events that are surprising or unexpected often stimulate stronger feelings of gratitude.</li> <li>Get personal with your entries. Recording or thinking about people you are grateful for often is more impactful than thinking about things you’re grateful for.</li> <li>Think of things you’re grateful for as gifts. Thinking of things we are grateful for as gifts helps prevent many people from overlooking them or taking them for granted.</li> </ul> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Written by Jennifer Hiuzen. This article first appeared in </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/healthsmart/conditions/mental-health/how-to-keep-a-gratitude-journal-with-16-prompts-to-help-you-get-started" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reader’s Digest</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </span><a rel="noopener" href="http://readersdigest.innovations.com.au/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA87V" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">here’s our best subscription offer.</span></a></em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

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‘Drained and wary of the future’: why you might feel different about New Year’s resolutions this year

<p>At the beginning of each year, many people make vows to either do or not do something to improve their life in some way. The fresh start of a new year is magically equated with a fresh start to life and often imbued with renewed hope that <em>this</em> year things will be better.</p> <p>As we enter 2022, after two years of living with COVID-19, this hope may be stronger than usual.</p> <p>The pandemic’s impacts have ranged from deaths and other adverse effects on physical and mental health, to huge changes in employment, income, travel, leisure and the ability to socialise. The effect on individuals has varied considerably, depending on what their life was like beforehand, how much it has affected them personally, and their own resilience.</p> <p>Based on discussions with colleagues and patients, we may see resolutions driven by loss, guilt and anger, plus a rush on common types of self-improvement resolutions and a greater drive for overall life changes.</p> <p><strong>Resilience</strong></p> <p>How we respond to the shocks of the pandemic depends in part on our <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3402/ejpt.v5.25338" target="_blank">resilience</a>: the ability to adapt well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. It involves “bouncing back” from difficult experiences, and it can also involve personal growth.</p> <p>People who have lost loved ones to COVID may respond with New Year’s resolutions, but they may take positive or negative forms.</p> <p>Positive resolutions might be commitments to honour the deceased in some way, or to live well because your loved one cannot. A pact or vow made with or to a deceased loved one to “live life better” can be a powerful, positive motivator to change bad health habits such as smoking, excessive drinking or gambling, although professional help is advisable to ensure safe and lasting change.</p> <p>Negative resolutions, often driven by strong feelings of anger and despair, might be vows to seek revenge or punish those who may seem responsible for the death of their relative or friend.</p> <p>“Revenge resolutions” are not usually helpful adaptations and may spring from a sense of guilt arising from not being able to save their loved one or spend time with them.</p> <p>People who survived a COVID infection while a loved one did not, in particular, <a href="https://doi.apa.org/fulltext/2020-43452-001.html">often experience strong feelings of guilt</a>.</p> <p>Guilt-driven resolutions are driven by powerful emotions. They are likely to be realised in some form throughout the year, when hopefully the driving emotions become less intense by the following year.</p> <p><strong>Personal improvement</strong></p> <p>Since the virus has posed a major health risk, it would make sense for more people than ever to choose the New Year to resolve to improve their own health.</p> <p>Quitting smoking is a very common New Year’s resolution, and it seems even more sensible than usual amid a global pandemic of a virus that mainly attacks the respiratory system. However, as many people have found in the past, giving up cigarettes is very difficult and often requires significant planning and help to succeed.</p> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/436539/original/file-20211209-19-167gm8e.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /> <em><span class="caption">Quitting smoking or other drugs is a very common New Year’s resolution. But while the pandemic may have increased the desire for change, it won’t necessarily make it any easier to achieve.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></em></p> <p>While the pandemic may have made the desire for change stronger, it does not magically make resolutions any easier to achieve. This applies similarly to resolutions to change the use of alcohol or other drugs, which would also benefit from planning and professional help.</p> <p>Weight loss is another favourite New Year’s resolution. The famous “COVID kilos” will no doubt drive more people than usual to resolve to lose weight in 2022.</p> <p>Crash diets are common, but are often abandoned by February. Careful eating and an exercise plan accompanying the resolution will make it more likely to succeed.</p> <p><strong>Bigger changes</strong></p> <p>While COVID is likely to give an extra edge to common resolutions, we are also likely to see a surge in resolutions for overall “lifestyle change”. Many people’s attitudes to work and family have changed dramatically over the past two years, due to travel restrictions, work or study from home, and little socialisation with those outside our immediate families.</p> <p>This hugely significant alteration in our way of life has caused many people to reconsider their futures.</p> <p>Many have found great enjoyment in spending time with family and are now rethinking their work–home balance. Discovering that working from home is possible has made many people reconsider their career options moving into 2022.</p> <p>Some <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-05-10/quit-your-job-how-to-resign-after-covid-pandemic" target="_blank">experts anticipate</a> a post-pandemic work exodus, dubbed the “great resignation”, in which millions of people, from frontline workers to senior executives, may resign from their jobs.</p> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/436541/original/file-20211209-68670-gy08bg.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /> <em><span class="caption">As working from home has become more common, attitudes to work and family have shifted.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></em></p> <p>According to <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/worklab/work-trend-index/hybrid-work" target="_blank">recent research</a> by Microsoft, more than 40% of the global workforce are considering leaving their employers. This trend is expected to be replicated in different industries in the USA, UK and Europe. In Australia, <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/australias-great-resignation-is-a-myth-we-are-changing-jobs-less-than-ever-before-170784" target="_blank">this trend is not evident</a>, but nonetheless, a New Year’s resolution may be to determine a different type of employment for 2022 and beyond.</p> <p><strong>Two paths for 2022</strong></p> <p>COVID-19 has left most of us drained and wary of the future. Many people believed the pandemic would end in 2020, but 2021 brought more infection, lockdowns and restrictions.</p> <p>In times of trauma, when the future is uncertain, there can be a polarisation of behaviours. Some people adopt a “devil may care, live for now” attitude to life, with greater risk taking. Others take the opposite attitude, and exercise extreme caution and narrow their existence further.</p> <p>Both groups may well make New Year’s resolutions to fit their approach to life.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/172305/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jayashri-kulkarni-185" target="_blank">Jayashri Kulkarni</a>, Professor of Psychiatry, <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065" target="_blank">Monash University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com" target="_blank">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a rel="noopener" href="https://theconversation.com/drained-and-wary-of-the-future-why-you-might-feel-different-about-new-years-resolutions-this-year-172305" target="_blank">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Rap song linked to dip in suicide rates

<p><em>Content warning: This article contains mentions of suicide.</em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">An American rap song has been more than just a hit on the charts, after new research found it had a direct link to more people reaching out for crisis support and a decrease in suicide-related deaths.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">1-800-273-8255</span></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">, a song by American rapper Logic, features the phone number for the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The study, published in the </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.bmj.com/content/375/bmj-2021-067726" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">BMJ</span></a></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">, found that within 34 days of the song’s release in April 2017, the 2017 MTV Music Video Awards and the 2018 Grammy Awards, the hotline received an increase of 9,915 calls - working out to be an increase of seven percent more than the expected number.</span></p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height:281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7846511/logic1.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/1958b234800047b3926988b93a6e3e28" /></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Logic performing ‘1-800-273-8255’ at the VMAs in 2017. Image: Getty Images</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">These three events generated intense public attention around the song, and within those periods of publicity, the number of suicides in the US decreased by 245.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">1-800-273-8255</span></em> <a rel="noopener" href="https://happymag.tv/logic-song-linked-decline-in-suicide-rates/" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">has been praised</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> for its efforts to end the stigma surrounding mental health struggles and suicidal thoughts.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But, the researchers point out that their study is only observational and “can’t establish cause”. They also noted that it was unclear whether the song had any effects beyond the three events where it received peak attention, or whether using social media data captured how many people listened to the song.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Despite this, </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.scimex.org/newsfeed/1-800-hip-hop-song-linked-to-a-reduction-in-suicides-in-the-us" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">they say</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> these findings “emphasise the potential population health benefits of working creatively and innovatively” with the music industry to share stories of people seeking help and depicting people coping during times of crisis.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Logic has also been touched by the impact the song has had and the attention it’s brought to suicide prevention.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We did it from a really warm place in our hearts to try to help people,” he told </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">CNN</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">. “And the fact that it actually did, that blows my mind.”</span></p> <p><em>If you are experiencing a personal crisis or thinking about suicide, you can call Lifeline 131 114 or beyondblue 1300 224 636 or visit <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.lifeline.org.au/" target="_blank">lifeline.org.au</a> or <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/national-help-lines-and-websites" target="_blank">beyondblue.org.au</a>.</em></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p>

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What day is it? How holidays warp our sense of time

<p>The holidays are coming and chaos is upon us. You may be navigating crowded parking lots in the heat, shuffling from one holiday party to the next, not to mention trying to avoid recently arrived relatives. Amid this chaos, you might experience time a bit differently.</p> <p>You might forget what day it is. New Year’s Eve might sneak up on you when Christmas felt like it was just yesterday. And before you know it, the holidays are over, the trays of mangoes are gone, and the relatives have packed up and left.</p> <p>That’s not the only way your sense of time may be a bit distorted over summer.</p> <p>While sitting around and reflecting on past holiday seasons, you might find last Christmas feels just like yesterday. In fact, it might feel more recent than something that happened a few months ago.</p> <p>While it might seem like there’s a temporal vortex every December, these distortions make sense when you understand how the mind perceives time.</p> <p><strong>How does the mind perceive time?</strong></p> <p>The mind can’t perceive time directly. We don’t have watches, hourglasses, or calendars in our heads. Fortunately, the mind is quite good at approximating things it can’t measure directly.</p> <p>Our vision does this regularly. We can’t measure depth with our eyes, but we can approximate how far away objects are using various cues in our environment. Objects further away are smaller in our visual fields, less textured, and move less than objects closer to us. While this isn’t perfect, it serves us well enough for us to navigate our environments.</p> <p>Our minds do something similar with time. We <a rel="noopener" href="https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0033-2909.113.1.44" target="_blank">use cues</a> from both our environment and our memory to indicate how much time has passed.</p> <p>There are often a number of cues in our environments that signal what day it is. If you work 9 to 5, working or commuting only happens on weekdays; going out for brunch or playing tennis during the daytime only occurs on weekends. Our minds combine each of these cues to give us a sense of what day it is.</p> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/434884/original/file-20211201-17-4zkfoc.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/434884/original/file-20211201-17-4zkfoc.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="Overheat shot of couple eating breakfast or brunch at a cafe, while reading" /></a> <em><span class="caption">A long, lazy brunch might tell you it’s the weekend.</span> <span class="attribution"><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/breakfast-eating-food-beverages-restaurant-concept-421563274" target="_blank" class="source">Shutterstock</a></span></em></p> <p>Many of these cues are disrupted when we go on holidays. We’re no longer working, which means the events that normally signal to our minds it’s a weekday are gone.</p> <p>Several of the things we do on holidays, such as going to parties and having big dinners with our relatives, are things we usually only do on weekends, but can occur any day of the week on holidays.</p> <p>This disrupts our mind’s reference points for what day it is. This is why the holiday period might feel like one long weekend even though you know that’s not the case.</p> <p><strong>Where do memories fit in?</strong></p> <p>There are many cases where we lack external cues to give us a sense of how much time has elapsed. Fortunately, we can use our memory to fill in the gaps.</p> <p>You don’t need a memory scientist to tell you that more recent memories tend to be more vivid and detailed than older memories. So, the vividness of a memory is another cue we use to figure out how long ago an event occurred.</p> <p>I might see somebody who looks familiar but I can’t recall their name or how I met them. It’s probably safe for me to say I didn’t meet them very recently.</p> <p>Using memory to gauge time would work consistently if memories always got worse as time progresses.</p> <p>However, there are circumstances where memory for an event can <em>improve</em> with time. A great deal of experimental research has found memories for certain events improve <a rel="noopener" href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/BF03196157" target="_blank">when we return</a> to the conditions in which the memories were formed.</p> <p>This is because we form memories <a rel="noopener" href="https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2009-00258-003" target="_blank">by linking</a> various aspects of an event – the location, the people at the event, the music we were hearing – together in our minds. When we attempt to remember something, we use various aspects of the event to retrieve the others, much like using a Google search.</p> <p><strong>Remembering past Christmases</strong></p> <p>In the holiday season, we often return to the circumstances where previous holiday memories were formed. We’re often surrounded by the same people, eating the same foods, and hearing the same holiday songs.</p> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/434888/original/file-20211201-26-jzfzr.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/434888/original/file-20211201-26-jzfzr.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="Pavlova on a table" /></a> <em><span class="caption">Pavlova anyone? You probably ate that last year too.</span> <span class="attribution"><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/pavlova-meringue-nest-berries-mint-leaves-1420767284" target="_blank" class="source">Shutterstock</a></span></em></p> <p>This gives our minds additional cues to retrieve memories from past holiday seasons, such as gifts you may have received or arguments that happened over the dinner table.</p> <p>So, you might find yourself remembering a lot more memories from past holidays in greater detail and vividness than before. Because the mind uses vividness as a basis for time perception, this might have the effect of last Christmas season feeling like it was just last week, instead of a year ago.</p> <p>If your sense of time goes a bit haywire over the holidays, don’t worry. When you return to the structure of your daily life, your sense of time and memories will go back to normal.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/172502/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/adam-osth-850390">Adam Osth</a>, Senior Lecturer, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-day-is-it-how-holidays-warp-our-sense-of-time-172502">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

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“It has stayed with me”: Using fiction to explore trauma

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><em>Content warning: This article mentions sexual assault.</em></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Those who experience trauma can seek help in various ways, through therapy or creative outlets, and fiction is no exception.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In fiction, traumatic events are often depicted as a jumping-off point for a protagonist or hero’s story - whether that’s watching Bruce Wayne’s parents die before he can fight crime as Batman, or witnessing the attempted murder of Uma Thurman as the Bride in </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Kill Bill</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> before she seeks revenge.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">These depictions of traumatic events are often the precursor to a character’s descent into revenge, madness, or both, but they don’t have to be the only stories we see.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In her </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0022167817749703?casa_token=s_BbuJyDvjAAAAAA%3Apewb-trbcPxlbO0uGRYKAqOf_cchsFgT1CCpbRZQvODADU7rWimX6gaj1of76-A1cM1u61nak6K1L40" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">doctoral thesis</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> published in the </span><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Journal of Humanistic Psychology</span></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">, Dr Lynn Gumb defines an ‘ordinary hero’ that can emerge in fiction as a “person who, despite the challenges of trauma, continues to live an ordinary life” and doesn’t follow the well-worn path to madness or revenge. Instead, the individual can choose to “alter the landscape of their own lives” after trauma and pursue recovery.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">P. J. McKay, the author of </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.pjmckayauthor.com/shop-1" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Telling Time</span></a></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">, uses traumatic experiences from her own life to explore this recovery process, as women from two generations navigate the Croatian immigrant experience, family secrets and backpacking as a rite of passage.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I know that my personal experience while backpacking in the 1980s, especially in a country like Yugoslavia, where there was such a chasm in the way men viewed Western women (fuelled of course by Western movies and songs) would be familiar territory for many young women,” she told </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">OverSixty</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">. “For me, novels that speak of shared experiences, or situations which feel believable, resonate most.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The backpacking experience has been a rite of passage for many, particularly in Australasia and I know many have experienced unwanted sexual attention. My experience was a close call. It has stayed with me and has felt like a significant turning point in my life.”</span></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">Our discomfort and resulting tendency to retreat into silence only adds to the power of perpetrators.</p> — Grace Tame (@TamePunk) <a href="https://twitter.com/TamePunk/status/1464790576323170305?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 28, 2021</a></blockquote> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As difficult as it can be for survivors to witness these moments, stories like </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Telling Time</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> keep these traumatic situations at the forefront of our minds, especially as these situations continue to happen.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I thought it was important not to shy away from the reality of sexual assault and to explore the impact of this on friendships and why sometimes (often) it seems best to hold close and not disclose what happened,” McKay adds.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">However, some argue that the focus of recovery stories should be on what happens after the traumatic event, and how individuals can find truth and healing despite their experiences.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“There seems to be no doubt that trauma can stand in the way of finding truth and healing,” McKay says.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It remains to be seen whether society today, with its broader expectations and openness around sexual relationships, and less traditional male and female roles, will alow for more open conversations by those who have suffered trauma, particularly sexual trauma.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In an interview with </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">ABC’s</span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">7.30</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">, American activist and founder of the #Metoo movement Tarana Burke said conversations around trauma should shift, as the retelling of traumatic events comes with more costs than benefits.</span></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none"> <p dir="ltr">"We urge survivors to share their story, so you're re-traumatising not only the person but the person hearing that. There's not a tremendous amount of value in hearing the story, there's so much value in the hearing what happens after." – <a href="https://twitter.com/TaranaBurke?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@taranaburke</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/abc730?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#abc730</a></p> — abc730 (@abc730) <a href="https://twitter.com/abc730/status/1450386432757927947?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 19, 2021</a></blockquote> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We urge survivors to share their story, so you’re re-traumatising not only the person but the person hearing that,” she said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“There’s not a tremendous amount of value in hearing the story, there’s so much value in hearing what happens after.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As the conversations around trauma continue to change, it may be that having to witness these events becomes less necessary, and that we no longer need to share them to prevent future generations from experiencing them.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p>

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Premonition, seizures and memory: the strange phenomenon of déjà vu

<p><strong>It’s a curious French expression for a feeling that many of us have experienced. What does it tell us about the way our minds work?</strong></p> <div class="copy"> <p class="has-drop-cap">It’s fair to say that Dr Anne Cleary, a professor at Colorado State University, never intended to study déjà vu. <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="https://tedxcsu.com/meet-dr-anne-cleary/" target="_blank">Cleary is a cognitive psychologist</a> and was studying <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/building-memory-in-the-early-years/" target="_blank">memory</a> when she read Dr Alan Brown’s book <em><a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="https://www.routledge.com/The-Deja-Vu-Experience/Brown/p/book/9781138006010" target="_blank">The Déjà Vu Experience</a> </em>in 2004. In his book, Brown called on scientists to evaluate existing theories of déjà vu using current methodologies and models. The challenge he set, according to Cleary, was in “taking decades-old hypotheses from the literature that had never been tested before, and presenting those in terms that scientists could process and understand, as testable hypotheses that had actually never been tested, but could be tested. And he pointed out ways that scientists, using methods available at the time, could approach this”.</p> <p>In her own words, Cleary was inspired.</p> <p>Many of us are familiar with déjà vu – the odd feeling of having experienced something before, when you know differently. Taken from the French language, déjà vu literally translates to “already seen”. While in English we lump all déjà events under one umbrella, the French have a number of categories of “already” experiences. Déjà rêvé, for example, generally describes the feeling of having already dreamed something before experiencing it in waking life, while déjà goûté is the feeling of having already tasted something.</p> <blockquote class="has-text-color has-weekly-blood-red-color"> <p>Taken from the French language, déjà vu literally translates to “already seen”.</p> </blockquote> <p>Being a memory researcher, Cleary was interested in memory-based déjà vu hypotheses. “The source memory framework is the idea that we might find a situation familiar to us, that we also recognise as new, because we’ve experienced it at some point, perhaps in a different context, or just something very similar to it,” she explains. “So what we are experiencing really is a sense of familiarity that is coming from a real memory, but we are failing to call to mind the source of that familiarity.”</p> <p><strong>Using virtual reality to investigate déjà vu</strong></p> <p>In one of Cleary’s earliest déjà vu experiments in 2012, published in <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="https://bendsawyer.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Cleary-Brown-Sawyer-Nomi-Ajoku-Ryals-2012-Deja-Vue1.pdf" target="_blank"><em>Consciousness and Cognition</em></a>, 24 participants were individually fitted with a virtual-reality visor and navigated through 32 study-scenes, followed by 32 test-scenes. In this experiment, half of the test-scenes were designed to mirror earlier study-scenes in terms of spatial layout – so, for example, a garden scene would be created with hedge and wall placement mirroring that of rubbish placement in a junkyard scene. The navigation path was also identical. While, on average, 41% of mirrored test-scenes were able to be identified by participants, Cleary and colleagues also found that participants were significantly more likely to experience déjà vu when they were “immersed in a scene that shared the same spatial layout as something viewed earlier, but they couldn’t retrieve the memory”.</p> <p>On her decision to use spatial layout to elicit déjà vu, Cleary explains: “There is something special about scenes and places when it comes to human memory, but also when it comes to déjà vu. Research on autobiographical memory and human memory, in general, is starting to point towards the idea that scenes and places, in particular, might play a special role in our ability to remember our past. And that the parts of our brain that are responsible for navigating through spaces might be playing a critical role in our ability to recall our past experiences.”</p> <blockquote class="has-text-color has-weekly-blood-red-color"> <p>“There is something special about scenes and places when it comes to human memory, but also when it comes to déjà vu.”</p> Dr Anne Cleary, Colorado State University</blockquote> <p>Cleary is referring to the 2014 <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/medicine/2014/advanced-information/" target="_blank">Nobel Prize-winning</a> discovery of “grid” and “place” cells, believed to be involved in spatial mapping, navigation and memory. The discovery of these cells has also played a part in better understanding the connection between déjà vu and seizures.</p> <p><strong>Illuminating the link between déjà vu and seizures</strong></p> <p>“There is a known link between seizure activity and frequent or chronic déjà vu as part of the seizure aura,” explains Cleary. “In cases where people have this kind of seizure-related déjà vu, it seems to be right near those areas [of the brain] where we think the grid cells are, and those areas of the brain that are responsible for processing our place in space.”</p> <p>But is seizure-related déjà vu the same as the déjà vu most people experience? Interestingly, it seems not.</p> <div class="newsletter-box"> <div id="wpcf7-f6-p173678-o1" class="wpcf7"> <p style="display: none !important;"> </p> <!-- Chimpmail extension by Renzo Johnson --></div> </div> <p>To test this hypothesis, Cleary and colleagues recruited a patient who frequently experiences déjà vu as part of an epileptic condition.</p> <p>“Like a lot of people who have seizure-related déjà vu, he reports that he can tell the difference between when déjà vu is happening because of a seizure, versus when it’s what he would call ‘normal’,” says Cleary. “And so we ran him through our paradigm with the virtual reality scenes to see if he would have déjà vu… and what was really interesting was that he reported having déjà vu, but he said that they were the ‘normal’ kind… and we were recording his brain activity at the time, so we knew he wasn’t having seizures at the time either.”</p> <p>The case study, published in December in <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S152550502100634X" target="_blank"><em>Epilepsy &amp; Behaviour</em></a>, highlights the fact that déjà vu can also be cause for concern. Cleary herself has been contacted by several individuals reaching out for help with sudden chronic déjà vu.</p> <p>“There are medical reasons why people can experience frequent déjà vu,” she says. “People often reach out to me from the general public because they are suddenly having déjà vu very frequently. And that can be an indicator of what’s called focal seizure activity, when it’s happening multiple times a day, or even multiple times a week.”</p> <p><strong>Why does déjà vu sometimes feel like seeing the future?</strong></p> <p>Another curious aspect of déjà vu is its connection with feelings of premonition. Many people report having déjà vu events where they knew what was about to happen, right down to what people would say. Cleary is often approached by individuals wanting to share their experiences. “There were just stories coming out of the woodwork from people who were not at all superstitious, but who definitely felt like they really had this experience and that it was intense,” she says.</p> <blockquote class="has-text-color has-weekly-blood-red-color"> <p>Many people report having déjà vu events where they knew what was about to happen, right down to what people would say.</p> </blockquote> <p>Cleary was intrigued. Using the virtual reality program, Cleary and colleagues ran 74 participants through the study and test-scenes, pausing the navigation before the final turn on test-scenes to ask participants if they had a sense of the direction the last turn would take. That study, published in <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797617743018" target="_blank"><em>Psychological Science</em></a>, revealed that while participants’ predictions were no more accurate than chance, they had significantly stronger feelings that they <em>could</em> predict the last turn when experiencing déjà vu. “When people feel like they are having déjà vu,” says Cleary, “they feel quite strongly, very often, that they can predict the next turn, even though they can’t. We’ve since replicated that a number of times now, across a number of different studies. It’s a very robust, rather large effect.”</p> <p>In unpublished research, Cleary and colleagues examined if this predictive bias was also associated with déjà entendu – the feeling of having already heard something, when hearing it for the first time. Using musical puzzlers, in which well-known songs were embedded within classical music, Cleary found the same feelings of premonition when asking participants if they could predict the pitch of the final musical note. “And even more interestingly,” says Cleary, “we made it even more impossible to predict by just randomly assigning [the note] to either the left or right speaker. When people were experiencing déjà entendu for a musical piece, they felt very strongly that they knew the direction that the next sound was going to come from.”</p> <p><strong>How studying déjà vu has helped us understand human memory</strong></p> <p>Going back to where it all started, <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="https://www.routledge.com/The-Deja-Vu-Experience/Cleary-Brown/p/book/9780367273200" target="_blank">Cleary is now a co-author on the second edition of Brown’s book: <em>The Déjà Vu Experience</em></a>. “I took him up on his call,” says Cleary, “and so did others. As a result, the book catalysed a lot of the research that has been done since that first edition, leading to a lot of what we now know about déjà vu, that was not known at the time of the first edition of the book. A lot of that work came out of my own lab and my own collaborations with others over the years and a lot of that work continues today”.</p> <blockquote class="has-text-color has-weekly-blood-red-color"> <p>“When déjà vu occurs, suddenly your attention is drawn to your memory, its operation, and how it works.”</p> Dr Anne Cleary, Colorado State University</blockquote> <p>Cleary plans to continue her study in déjà, overlapping sound and virtual scenes to determine the effect on déjà vu experiences. “Most of the time we go through life we’re not paying attention to our memory – we take it for granted. When déjà vu occurs, suddenly your attention is drawn to your memory, its operation, and how it works… As a memory researcher, I think the experience itself is a window into how our memories work.”</p> <!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --> <img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=173678&amp;title=Premonition%2C+seizures+and+memory%3A+the+strange+phenomenon+of+d%C3%A9j%C3%A0+vu" alt="" width="1" height="1" /> <!-- End of tracking content syndication --></div> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/body-and-mind/science-of-deja-vu/" target="_blank">This article</a> was originally published on <a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/deborah-johanson" target="_blank">Deborah Johanson</a>. Deborah Johanson is a freelance medical and science writer from Auckland, New Zealand. She holds a PhD and Masters degree in Health Psychology, a Bachelors degree in Health Science, and has a clinical background as a Registered Nurse. While most of her research has involved healthcare robots, Deborah now writes about health, medicine, technology, and science.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p> </div>

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TGA announces final decision: MDMA and psilocybin will not be rescheduled

<p>In October, Cosmos <a style="font-size: 14px;" rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/body-and-mind/tga-psilocybin-report/" target="_blank">reported</a><span style="font-size: 14px;"> on the pending decision from Australia’s drug regulator on the potential rescheduling of psilocybin and MDMA from Schedule 9 (Prohibited Substances) to Schedule 8 (Controlled Medicines) of the Poisons Standard.</span></p> <div class="copy"> <p>The shift would see these treatments move beyond their current use solely in restricted clinical trials to broader applications in the treatment of a range of psychiatric disorders.</p> <p>At the time the article was written, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) had received 453 supportive submissions for MDMA and 575 for psilocybin, and 11 opposed for each. A growing body of experts was pushing strongly to have the two treatments down-scheduled.</p> <p>Earlier this week, the TGA announced its <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.tga.gov.au/scheduling-decision-final/notice-final-decisions-amend-or-not-amend-current-poisons-standard-relation-psilocybin-and-mdma" target="_blank">final decision</a>: MDMA and psilocybin will not be rescheduled for use as medicines at this time.</p> <p>This will be a blow to those who have been advocating for the substances’ inclusion as controlled medicines, citing evidence of safety and efficacy for a range of clinical treatments. However, a number of researchers have welcomed the news.</p> <p>Citing research published by Dr Martin Williams, Executive Director of Psychedelic Research In Science &amp; Medicine (PRISM Ltd), and colleagues, the TGA announcement notes that any changes to the scheduling of MDMA and psilocybin must be done with the current Australian clinical context in mind, ensuring that Australia’s medical community is adequately equipped with expertise in both administration and ethical use.</p> <p>Williams has subsequently expressed his support for the announcement, noting that this decision reflects insufficient evidence rather than any identified safety concerns.</p> <div class="newsletter-box"> <div id="wpcf7-f6-p177271-o1" class="wpcf7"> <p style="display: none !important;"> </p> <!-- Chimpmail extension by Renzo Johnson --></div> </div> <p>“While excellent late-phase clinical research is ongoing around the world, and the results so far have been very promising, we agree that the standards of evidence required for formal approval and implementation still need to be met,” Williams says.</p> <p>He reiterates that the decision doesn’t mark the end of the road for the drugs in a clinical setting, but simply ensures research continues to work towards establishing safe practices.</p> <p>“Australian research needs to be conducted to ensure successful implementation in the local environment, to engage our medical community, and to pave the way towards appropriate training and accreditation of Australian mental health professionals in this game-changing area of mental health practice,” he says.</p> <p>Fellow PRISM director Dr Stephen Bright agreed with this position, stating that rescheduling at this time would be “premature given there is still no accredited training in Australia”.</p> <p>“My concern was that the application for rescheduling, as submitted, did not go far enough to ensure adequate clinical governance for the use of these powerful therapeutic drugs,” says Bright.</p> <p>“Without an established and integrated system of clinical governance for the provision of psychedelics, rescheduling alone may open the door to unsafe and unethical practices. Appropriate training in this novel and paradigm-changing approach is still broadly lacking, even among mental health professionals.”</p> <p>“At PRISM Ltd, our focus remains on completing the research we are engaged in that will put Australia in a better position to make these drugs medicines.”</p> <!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --> <img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=177271&amp;title=TGA+announces+final+decision%3A+MDMA+and+psilocybin+will+not+be+rescheduled" alt="" width="1" height="1" /> <!-- End of tracking content syndication --></div> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/australia/psychedelics-will-not-be-rescheduled/" target="_blank">This article</a> was originally published on <a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/jamie-priest" target="_blank">Jamie Priest</a>. Jamie Priest is a science journalist at Cosmos. She has a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from the University of Adelaide.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p> </div>

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Meditation could boost your immune system

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.scimex.org/newsfeed/how-meditation-could-help-boost-the-immune-system" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">new study</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> has connected intensive meditation with altered behaviour of over 200 genes tied to immunity, with their findings suggesting that meditation may be beneficial for those with a weakened immune system.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The research, recently published in the journal </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.pnas.org/content/118/51/e2110455118" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)</span></a></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">, involved analysing blood samples from 106 volunteers who participated in an intensive Samyama meditation retreat. The participants spent eight days in complete silence, followed a strict vegan diet and regular sleep schedule, and meditated for more than ten hours each day.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Several samples were taken from each participant, including one two months before the retreat, another five weeks before, two immediately before and after the retreat, and a final sample three months after it ended.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">After analysing the gene expression in the samples, the team found that there were “distinct” alterations in how genes were expressed after participants meditated.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In particular, they found that 220 genes tied to immunity had higher levels of expression without an increase in inflammation.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Sixty-eight of these genes were also tied to signalling proteins called interferons. These proteins help our immune systems to identify viruses and trigger immune cells to fight viral cells, stopping them from multiplying.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“These findings suggest that meditation has an immediate impact on immune cells and genes,” the authors wrote.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">They also discovered that there wasn’t an increase in inflammation</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though many studies have found that meditation has a positive impact on our health, this new research investigates what happens inside human cells when we meditate to explain why we experience these positive effects.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">By examining the gene expression before and after meditation, the authors suggest that meditation could be helpful for treating conditions characterised by a weakened immunity and persistent inflammation.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Together, these results make meditation an effective behavioural intervention for treating various conditions associated with a weakened immune system,” they concluded.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p>

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‘Brain fog’ during menopause is real – it can disrupt women’s work and spark dementia fears

<p>For nearly two-thirds of women, menopause comes with an undesirable <a href="https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/152460901750269670">change in memory</a>.</p> <p>Despite great progress in understanding the medical aspects of <a href="https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/menopause#what-is-menopause">menopause</a> – a natural part of life that occurs when a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 months – we are only beginning to recognise the experience and impact of <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/research-topics/17042/the-psychology-of-menopause#overview">cognitive changes during menopause</a>.</p> <p>In most cases, it appears cognitive changes – that is, problems with thinking, reasoning or remembering – during menopause are subtle and possibly temporary. But for some women, these difficulties can negatively impact work productivity. And for others, they can raise concerns about developing dementia.</p> <h2>The Big M</h2> <p>Menopause marks the end of reproductive years. It can happen naturally, at an average age of 49 years, when the hairlike follicles in the ovaries are exhausted. Menopause can also happen surgically, with the removal of both ovaries (for example to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer).</p> <p>The change from reproductive to postmenopausal years, referred to as “perimenopause” usually lasts four to ten years.</p> <p>The symptoms of menopause, which can include vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes and night sweats), vaginal dryness, sleep disturbance, depression, anxiety and “brain fog” can span perimenopause and last for up to ten years.</p> <h2>What kind of foggy thinking?</h2> <p>Just over 60% of women <a href="https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/152460901750269670">report cognitive difficulties</a> during their menopause transition.</p> <p>Women describe difficulties remembering people’s names or finding the right word in conversation. Some describe difficulties with concentrating or making decisions. As discussed in our <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0083672920300686?via%3Dihub">recent review</a>, these “subjective cognitive difficulties” appear to be linked to performance on tests of memory, recall and processing.</p> <p>Difficulties on tests of verbal memory (learning and remembering information new words you have heard), verbal fluency (quickly retrieving words from your memory) and attention are seen in perimenopausal women.</p> <h2>Women at work</h2> <p>While the degree of cognitive decline is subtle and performance generally remains within the normal limits of functioning, the symptoms can be bothersome for the individual. For many women, menopause coincides with the prime of their productive lives, when the load of caring for young children has eased and they’ve garnered experience and seniority in the workplace.</p> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/436857/original/file-20211210-141979-g7ejsn.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/436857/original/file-20211210-141979-g7ejsn.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="Woman in glasses" /></a> <span class="caption">Women might be hitting their professional peak just as menopause affects their cognition.</span> <span class="attribution"><a href="https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1559856553-823ca11d1518?ixlib=rb-1.2.1&amp;ixid=MnwxMjA3fDB8MHxwaG90by1wYWdlfHx8fGVufDB8fHx8&amp;auto=format&amp;fit=crop&amp;w=2108&amp;q=80" class="source">Unsplash/Maria Lupan</a>, <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/" class="license">CC BY</a></span></p> <p>There is growing interest in the impact of <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214911221000242?via%3Dihub">menopausal symptoms in the workplace</a>. Research suggests menopause symptoms can <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25830628/">adversely affect</a> work productivity and work satisfaction.</p> <p>Contributing factors include poor concentration and poor memory. The retention of menopausal female workers is important, for women themselves, but also to ensure we continue to strive for workforce diversity within our modern workforce.</p> <h2>What causes menopausal brain fog?</h2> <p>“Brain fog” is not a medical or psychological term, but a lay term that aptly describes the fogginess in thought experienced by many women during menopause.</p> <p>Menopause related cognitive changes are not just age-related cognitive decline. Rather, fluctuating and eventual decline of ovarian hormone production associated with menopause is likely to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3763981/">play a key role</a>.</p> <p>Hormones produced by the ovaries, estradiol (a type of estrogen) and progesterone, are potent brain chemicals that are thought to protect the brain and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6162653/">enhance thinking and memory</a>. The fluctuations and eventual loss of estradiol has been <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6162653/">suggested</a> to contribute to cognitive difficulties.</p> <p>Cognitive symptoms can occur in the <a href="https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/171/11/1214/102233">absence of other menopausal symptoms</a>. This means other menopausal symptoms are not responsible for cognitive symptoms. However, menopause related depressive and anxiety symptoms, sleep disturbance and vasomotor symptoms <a href="https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/171/11/1214/102233">may make cognitive symptoms worse</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/436861/original/file-20211210-17-qacocb.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/436861/original/file-20211210-17-qacocb.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="Working women share coffee" /></a> <span class="caption">More research is needed to determine if lifestyle changes could buffer cognitive problems related to menopause.</span> <span class="attribution"><a href="https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1590650046871-92c887180603?ixlib=rb-1.2.1&amp;ixid=MnwxMjA3fDB8MHxwaG90by1wYWdlfHx8fGVufDB8fHx8&amp;auto=format&amp;fit=crop&amp;w=1770&amp;q=80" class="source">Unsplash</a>, <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/" class="license">CC BY</a></span></p> <h2>Is there a link with Alzheimer’s disease?</h2> <p>Alzheimer’s disease is the <a href="https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia/types-of-dementia">most common form of dementia</a> and <a href="https://www.alz.org/blog/alz/february_2016/why_does_alzheimer_s_disease_affect_more_women_tha#:%7E:text=Women%20are%20disproportionately%20affected%20by,with%20Alzheimer's%20disease%20are%20women.">being female is a risk factor</a>. The greater longevity of women does not explain this increased risk.</p> <p>Instead, the loss of estradiol associated with menopause has been suggested to play a role. Early menopause, such as surgical menopause before the age of 45 years, <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306453018311478?casa_token=v6m5g8k3kCcAAAAA:cW3RhpbLs2tAD7o2hcIXTR_e-LCQAv77WMpnciHZ8Rgp2cLJhwW74evz28z0Uf47JjZeF9V16c-U">has been associated</a> with an increased risk of dementia later in life as well as a faster rate of cognitive decline.</p> <p>Because similar symptoms may present during menopause and the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease (forgetfulness and word-finding difficulties) perimenopausal women can become concerned about dementia.</p> <p>Women should be reassured that dementia that begins before age 65 – called young onset dementia – is not common (unless there is a family history of early-onset dementia). Forgetfulness and other cognitive difficulties during the menopausal transition are common and a normal part of menopause.</p> <h2>What can help?</h2> <p>Although fluctuations and an eventual decline in estrogen play a role in cognitive difficulties, the use of hormone therapy <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8394691/">does not appear to have a clear benefit</a> on cognitive function (but evidence remains limited).</p> <p>More research is needed to determine whether lifestyle factors can help menopausal brain fog. We do know exercise can improve cognition during <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7907999/">midlife</a>, mindfulness and meditation may be <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4125424/">helpful</a>.</p> <p>At Monash University, we are currently conducting an <a href="https://redcap.link/menopause">online survey</a> for women aged 45 to 60 to better understand cognitive symptoms during menopause.</p> <p>Avoiding illicit drugs, prescription medication overuse, smoking and excessive alcohol may be <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8293659/">protective</a>. A diet that includes plant-based unprocessed foods (such as a Mediterranean diet), close social bonds and engagement, and a higher level of education have been <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8624903/">broadly linked</a> to better cognitive functioning during later life.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/173150/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/caroline-gurvich-473295">Caroline Gurvich</a>, Associate professor and Clinical Neuropsychologist, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/chen-zhu-1298027">Chen Zhu</a>, , <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/shalini-arunogiri-385503">Shalini Arunogiri</a>, Addiction Psychiatrist, Senior Lecturer, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></span></p> <p>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/brain-fog-during-menopause-is-real-it-can-disrupt-womens-work-and-spark-dementia-fears-173150">original article</a>.</p> <p><em>Image: Unsplash/Gantas Vaiciulenas</em></p>

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Can mental healthcare be automated?

<p>Depression is predicted to become the <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.0030442" target="_blank">leading global cause of loss of life years</a> due to illness by 2030, yet <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5288082/" target="_blank">fewer than one in five people</a> who suffer depression receive appropriate care. And there are <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)02143-7/fulltext" target="_blank">worrisome signs</a> the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating triggers of the disease.</p> <p>As the burden of disease rises around the world, mental healthcare systems, <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="https://www.who.int/news/item/08-10-2021-who-report-highlights-global-shortfall-in-investment-in-mental-health" target="_blank">many of which are already patently inadequate</a>, will be stretched thin.</p> <p>That’s why many experts are turning to digital interventions to help manage surging demand, packaging up psychotherapeutic treatments into computer programs and apps that can be used at home. But how effective are digital interventions? And will people accept therapy without a human face?</p> <p>These are the questions an international team of researchers from Finland, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy sought to answer through a systematic review and meta-analysis <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="https://doi.org/10.1037/bul0000334" target="_blank">published today</a> in <em>Psychological Bulletin.</em> The team analysed 83 studies published between 1990 and 2020, reporting on 15,530 individuals, making it the largest and most comprehensive analysis of digital mental healthcare to date.</p> <p>The findings, while mixed, are promising.</p> <p><strong>Software alone not enough</strong></p> <p>The data suggests that digital interventions <em>are </em>effective in the treatment of depression, but the best results come when a digital program is augmented by support from an actual human. That’s when digital therapy can actually rival the effectiveness of face-to-face therapy.</p> <p>“Digital interventions could provide a viable, evidence-based method of meeting the growing demand for mental healthcare, especially where people are unable to access face-to-face therapy due to long waiting lists, financial constraints or other barriers,” says Isaac Moshe, lead author of the study and a PhD researcher at the University of Helsinki. But, he notes, “software alone just isn’t enough for many people, especially individuals who suffer from moderate or more severe symptoms.”</p> <p>Interestingly, the researchers found that while a level of human support behind a digital program was important, there was no marked difference in outcomes whether that support was provided by a highly experienced clinician or someone with less experience, such as a student or trainee. Moshe says that means digital programs could be scaled up by relying on less experienced practitioners, and offer a powerful solution to a growing problem.</p> <p>Even with the assistance of a clinician, however, there are barriers to the uptake of digital healthcare.</p> <p>According to <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="https://www.pharmaceutical-technology.com/news/cost-security-concerns-and-lack-of-integration-into-existing-workflow-the-main-barriers-to-the-adoption-of-digital-health-tools-poll/" target="_blank">one industry-based poll</a>, major barriers include cost, security concerns and a lack of digital savviness among patients. Another major therapeutic concern is the idea that spending time working face-to-face with a human builds trust and a sense of alliance. This is <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7016304/" target="_blank">particularly true</a> among older generations.</p> <p>Digital healthcare is also generally only appropriate for those who can afford the means to access it through a mobile phone or computer. That means it’s inaccessible for many people living in poverty or in remote communities.</p> <p><strong>AI has a role to play</strong></p> <p>The researchers also say artificial intelligence may have a role to play, principally in flagging risk factors for mental health, as well as helping clinicians develop tailor-made interventions.</p> <p>“Over three billion people now own a smartphone and wearable devices are growing in popularity,” explains Lasse Sander from the University of Freiburg, who led the research team. “These devices produce a continuous stream of data related to a person’s behaviour and physiology. With new developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning, we now have promising methods of using this data to identify if someone is at risk of developing a mental illness.”</p> <p>Moshe cautions that the results are focused on moderate depression, and that digital interventions may not be sufficient to cater to severe cases.</p> <p>“There are very few studies involving people with severe depression or individuals at risk of suicide, leaving the evidence unclear for the role of digital interventions for the treatment of severe and complex depression,” he says.</p> <p><!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --></p> <p><img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=176089&amp;title=Can+mental+healthcare+be+automated%3F" alt="" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><!-- End of tracking content syndication --></p> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/body-and-mind/can-digital-mental-healthcare-be-automated/" target="_blank">This article</a> was originally published on <a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/amalyah-hart" target="_blank">Amalyah Hart</a>. Amalyah Hart is a science journalist based in Melbourne.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p> </div>

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Can you find the doll among all the Christmas presents?

<p>Attention, puzzle pros! Online motherhood community<span> </span><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="http://www.channelmum.com/" target="_blank">Channel Mums</a><span> </span>has designed a brainteaser that is sure to get you feeling festive for the holiday season – and seriously test your smarts, too.</p> <p>Here’s the challenge: Hidden somewhere in this crazy conglomeration of dinosaurs, rocket ships, teddy bears and yo-yos is a single doll.</p> <p>But only the most eagle-eyed observers can track it down.</p> <p>“At first glance, it looks like every mum’s nightmare – the scene of living room chaos following the opening of the Christmas presents,” Siobhan Freegard, spokeswoman for Channel Mum, told<span> </span><em>The Sun</em>.</p> <p>“It’s very tricky, but it shouldn’t take longer than your average wrapping paper clean-up.”</p> <p>That said, don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t spot the pesky doll. It may speed up your search to know that you can only see half of her body; the other half is covered by a few extra toys.</p> <p>Still stumped? Check out the photo below to see where the doll has been hiding.</p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height:333.3333333333333px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7846352/new-photo-768x512_gh_content_750px.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/dbf74793a0424e80b8f564e0ee6879ea" /></p> <p><em>Image: Channel Mum</em></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Written by Brooke Nelson. This article first appeared in </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/true-stories-lifestyle/thought-provoking/can-you-find-doll-among-all-christmas-presents" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reader’s Digest</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </span><a rel="noopener" href="http://readersdigest.innovations.com.au/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA87V" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">here’s our best subscription offer.</span></a></em></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Channel Mum</span></em></p> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

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7 factors that tell you how wise you are

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If you have always considered yourself to be a wise person, a new test could determine just how right you are.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Researchers at the University of California’s School of Medicine have devised a scale that can help determine an individual’s level of wisdom with a high level of validity.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Previously, the team had created a 28-item scale, which has been used in large national and international studies, research, and clinical trials to assess wisdom.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Their latest scale, published in </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/international-psychogeriatrics/article/abbreviated-san-diego-wisdom-scale-sdwise7-and-jestethomas-wisdom-index-jtwi/A9B158C6025CB60097F93E36E8D0B859#article" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">International Psychogeriatrics</span></a></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">, was found to be a reliable and comparable measure of wisdom, which has a strong association with wellbeing.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Wisdom measures are increasingly being used to study factors that impact mental health and optimal ageing,” </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/12/211203081529.htm" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">said</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> Dr Dilip V Jeste, the study’s senior author and a Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at the university.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We wanted to test if a list of only seven factors could provide valuable information to test wisdom.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The scale is made up of seven statements that relate to the seven components of wisdom: self-reflection, emotional regulation, pro-social behaviours such as empathy and compassion, acceptance of diverse perspectives, decisiveness, social advising, and spirituality.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Participants then rate the statements on a one to five scale, from strongly disagree to strongly agree.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Examples include “I remain calm under pressure” and “I avoid situations where I know my help will be needed”, and others ask participants to rate their abilities to make major decisions, engage in self-reflection, and how they feel about diverse viewpoints.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Shorter doesn’t mean less valid,” Dr Jeste said. “We selected the right type of questions to get important information that not only contributes to the advancement of science but also supports our previous data that wisdom correlates with health and longevity.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Dr Jeste said assessing levels of wisdom is useful for reducing loneliness and improving overall wellbeing.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Like the COVID-19 vaccine protects us from the novel coronavirus, wisdom can aid in protecting us from loneliness,” he explained. “Thus, we can potentially help end a behavioural pandemic of loneliness, suicides and opioid abuse that has been going on for the last 20 years.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With that in mind, Dr Jeste said future research would see the test be used to assess wisdom in genetic, biological, psychosocial and cultural studies, as well as other factors relating to mental, physical and cognitive health.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We need wisdom for surviving and thriving in life,” Dr Jeste said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Now, we have a list of questions that take less than a couple of minutes to answer that can be put into clinical practice to try to help individuals.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For the abbreviated test, Jeste, along with coauthors and colleagues, chose one pivotal question (out of four prompts) from each of wisdom's seven subscale categories:</span></p> <p><strong>The Seven-Item Wisdom Scale Prompts (Subscale in Parenthesis)</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"I tend to postpone making major decisions as long as I can." (Decisiveness)</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"I avoid self-reflection." (Self-Reflection)</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"I avoid situations where I know my help will be needed." (Prosocial Behaviors)</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"I often don't know what to tell people when they come to me for advice." (Social Advising)</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"I remain calm under pressure." (Emotional Regulation)</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"I enjoy being exposed to diverse viewpoints." (Acceptance of Divergent Perspectives)</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"My spiritual belief gives me inner strength." (Spirituality)</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If you’re curious and would like to test yourself on the original 28-question scale, you can do so </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://survey.alchemer.com/s3/5991949/Jeste-Thomas-Wisdom-Index" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">here</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">!</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p>

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Could Viagra help prevent Alzheimer’s disease?

<p>Viagra is used by millions of people each year to treat erectile dysfunction. But new research shows that it might not just be helpful in the bedroom – there’s a suggestion that Viagra may also help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.</p> <p>Despite what it’s best known for, sildenafil – marketed as Viagra – isn’t a one-trick pony. It was <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/science/biology/how-i-discovered-viagra/" target="_blank">originally developed to treat angina</a> – although it didn’t make it through trials – and there’s some evidence it could <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.pasteur.fr/en/viagra-prevent-transmission-malaria-parasite" target="_blank">help </a><a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="https://www.pasteur.fr/en/viagra-prevent-transmission-malaria-parasite" target="_blank">t</a><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.pasteur.fr/en/viagra-prevent-transmission-malaria-parasite" target="_blank">reat malaria</a>. Tadalafil, a similar drug to Viagra, <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/medicine/sex-med-looks-promising-as-heart-failure-drug/" target="_blank">has been proposed</a> as a heart failure treatment.</p> <p>A <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s43587-021-00138-z" target="_blank">paper</a> in <em>Nature Aging </em>has expanded its potential further, using records from insurance claims to examine the link between Viagra and Alzheimer’s disease.</p> <p>The researchers, who are based in the US, examined the insurance records of 7.23 million people, alongside genetic and other biological data. They looked through the data to pull out indicators of Alzheimer’s disease, and then examined the relationship between these indicators and over 1,600 prescribed medicinal drugs.</p> <p>Viagra had the highest link to lower chance of Alzheimer’s, with its prescription being associated with a 69% reduced risk of the disease.</p> <p>The researchers point out that while this link is significant, it doesn’t establish causality: it may be that Viagra prevents Alzheimer’s, or it may be that people who have fewer biological precursors to Alzheimer’s are also more likely to recieve a Viagra prescription.</p> <p>There could also be other confounding factors at play. Sildenafil, for instance, is more likely to be prescribed to wealthy people, and wealthy people are also less likely to get Alzheimer’s disease. The sample size of Viagra users was also – unsurprisingly – mostly male.</p> <p>“Taken together, the association between sildenafil usage and decreased incidence of AD [Alzheimer’s disease] does not establish causality or its direction,” write the researchers in their paper.</p> <p>“Our results therefore warrant rigorous clinical trial testing of the treatment efficacy of sildenafil in patients with AD, inclusive of both sexes and controlled by placebo.”</p> <p><!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --></p> <p><img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=175427&amp;title=Could+Viagra+help+prevent+Alzheimer%E2%80%99s+disease%3F" alt="" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><!-- End of tracking content syndication --></p> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/medicine/viagra-prevent-alzheimers-disease-study/" target="_blank">This article</a> was originally published on <a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a rel="noopener" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/ellen-phiddian" target="_blank">Ellen Phiddian</a>. Ellen Phiddian is a science journalist at Cosmos. She has a BSc (Honours) in chemistry and science communication, and an MSc in science communication, both from the Australian National University.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p> </div>

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“The power of conversation is wonderful”: Bringing mental health into pharmacies

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With the coronavirus pandemic approaching its second year, many of us have been experiencing symptoms associated with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For some, it has come as a worsening of existing symptoms or conditions, while others may be experiencing difficulties with their mental health for the very first time.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If we then seek help or advice for looking after our mental health, the local pharmacy is often the most accessible form of care we can turn to.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“A pharmacist’s role goes beyond being a dispenser of medicine,” David Tran, the owner and pharmacist at Blooms the Chemist Padstow, tells </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">OverSixty</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We work on the frontline alongside GPs and allied health providers to look after the physical and mental health of our communities.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Between 2019 and 2020, more than </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/mental-health-services/mental-health-services-in-australia/report-contents/mental-health-related-prescriptions" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">one in six Australians</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> (17.2 percent) received mental health-related prescriptions, totalling 40.7 million medications being dispensed.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Yet, </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/mental-health/national-survey-mental-health-and-wellbeing-summary-results/latest-release#summary-of-findings" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">more than half</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> (54 percent) of those with a mental illness do not access treatment.</span></p> <p><strong>Learning to spot the signs and symptoms early</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A new initiative by Blooms the Chemist could make seeking help easier, with the launch of its </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.bloomsthechemist.com.au/mental-health" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Healthy Mind Check-ups</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The service allows people to have one-on-one, confidential conversations with pharmacists about their mental health.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“In community pharmacy, the close ties that we have with the local community members give us the opportunity to provide professional support and advice as a primary point of contact, especially during challenging times such as during the pandemic,” Mr Tran said. “The power of a conversation is wonderful, especially in person.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mr Tran’s chemist was at the epicentre of Sydney’s strict COVID-19 lockdown earlier this year, and he has seen a spike in people seeking advice through his pharmacy and the new service.</span></p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7846165/mental-health-pharmacist1.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/c37a5c7a8d5840f4b00dfa06fc736257" /></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">David Tran (right) says the new Mental Health Check-ups could make mental health resources more accessible to more Australians. Image: Supplied</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Pharmacists working within Blooms Chemist locations have received over 660 hours of training in Mental Health First Aid - developing skills in identifying signs of perinatal depression and anxiety and the knowledge to assist those at risk of suicide or experiencing domestic violence or emotional crises caused by poor sleep.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For older individuals, Mr Tran said there were some particular mental health concerns pharmacists would be on the lookout for.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It is important to identify depression in older patients as they are 10-15 percent more likely to experience this condition,” he says.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Usually, the contributing factors to depression in older Australians can include physical illness or personal loss. In addition, with a third of all senior Australians living alone, loneliness is becoming a significant contributor on the mental health of older people and could potentially lead to depression and anxiety.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">He added that going to the pharmacy for an in-person check-up or simply “a conversation with one of our team members” can provide Australians with the connection they need.</span></p> <p><strong>Remote and rural Australians disproportionately affected</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Those in regional and remote areas face more barriers to accessing healthcare, especially when it comes to mental health.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/health-services/patient-experiences-australia-summary-findings/latest-release#experience-of-mental-health-services" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">2020-2021 survey of patient experiences</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> from the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that 22.9 percent of people in outer regional, remote or very remote areas waited longer than they felt was acceptable to see a GP, compared to 15.2 percent of people in major cities.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In data from the same survey, 19.9 percent of those in outer regional, remote or very remote areas said cost was not a reason why they didn’t see a mental health professional when they needed to, compared to only 4.2 percent of those in major cities.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mr Tran says the new initiative will boost the accessibility of mental help support, especially in these areas.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Australians in remote areas are inherently disadvantaged compared to people in major urban centres when it comes to accessibility of mental health resources. The general lack of services has shown to be the main barrier to seeking treatment or help in these communities,” he explains.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The long distances that people in regional Australia must commute to have access to mental health services is not only inconvenient but also expensive.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With over 110 locations across the country, Mr Tran says the initiative is “a significant step forward to ensuring people get the support they need”.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p>

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