Study: Smiling Does Bring a Mood Boost

Here’s something to make you smile: Turning that frown upside down does make folks feel a little happier, researchers conclude.

While most of us might know this instinctively, academics have not always been sure.

“Conventional wisdom tells us that we can feel a little happier if we simply smile. Or that we can get ourselves in a more serious mood if we scowl,” said lead researcher Nicholas Coles, a graduate student in social psychology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

“But psychologists have actually disagreed about this idea for over 100 years,” Coles noted in a school news release.

The controversy over the theory was heightened in 2016 when 17 teams of researchers weren’t able to replicate a well-known experiment that claimed to show that smiling can make people feel happier.

A much bigger pool of data was needed, Coles said.

“Some studies have not found evidence that facial expressions can influence emotional feelings,” he said. “But we can’t focus on the results of any one study. Psychologists have been testing this idea since the early 1970s, so we wanted to look at all the evidence.”

So Coles and his colleagues analyzed nearly 50 years of data from 138 studies that tried to determine whether facial expressions can affect people’s moods. The studies included more than 11,000 people worldwide.

The researchers’ conclusion: Facial expressions do have a small effect on feelings: Smiling makes people feel happier, scowling makes them feel angrier, and frowning makes them feel sadder.

The study was published in the journal Psychological Bulletin.

Coles stressed that no one should toss their antidepressants and just start grinning instead.

“We don’t think that people can smile their way to happiness,” he said. “But these findings are exciting because they provide a clue about how the mind and the body interact to shape our conscious experience of emotion. We still have a lot to learn about these facial feedback effects, but this meta-analysis put us a little closer to understanding how emotions work.”

Source: HealthDay


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Musical Training Improves the Ability to Tune Out Distractions

Musical training produces lasting improvements to a cognitive mechanism that helps individuals be more attentive and less likely to be distracted by irrelevant stimuli while performing demanding tasks. According to a new study appearing in the journal Heliyon, published by Elsevier, trained musicians demonstrate greater executive control of attention (a main component of the attentional system) than non-musicians. Notably, the more years of training musicians have, the more efficient they are at controlling their attention.

“Our study investigated the effects of systematic musical training on the main components of the attentional system. Our findings demonstrate greater inhibitory attentional control abilities in musicians than non-musicians. Professional musicians are able to more quickly and accurately respond to and focus on what is important to perform a task, and more effectively filter out incongruent and irrelevant stimuli than non-musicians. In addition, the advantages are enhanced with increased years of training,” explained lead investigator, Paulo Barraza, PhD, Center for Advanced Research in Education, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile.

The attentional system consists of three subsystems that are mediated by anatomically distinct neural networks: alerting, orienting, and executive control networks. The alerting function is associated with maintaining states of readiness for action. The orienting function is linked to the selection of sensory information and change of attentional focus. The executive control function is involved both in the suppression of irrelevant, distracting stimuli and in top-down attentional control. The study’s findings also demonstrated a correlation between the alerting and orienting networks in musicians than in non-musicians, possibly reflecting a functional relationship between these attentional networks derived from the deliberate practice of music.

The investigators recorded the behavioral responses of 18 professional pianists and a matched group of 18 non-musician professional adults who engaged in an attentional networks test. The musician group consisted of full-time conservatory students or conservatory graduates from Conservatories of the Universidad de Chile, Universidad Mayor de Chile, and Universidad Austral de Chile, with an average of more than 12 years of practice. “Non-musicians” were university students or graduates who had not had formal music lessons and could not play or read music.

The participants viewed and provided immediate feedback on rapidly presented image variations to test the efficiency of their reactive behavior. Mean scores of the alerting, orienting, and executive networks for the group of musicians were 43.84 milliseconds (ms), 43.70 ms, and 53.83 ms; for the group of non-musicians mean scores were 41.98 ms, 51.56 ms, and 87.19 ms, respectively. The higher scores show less efficient inhibitory attentional control.

Prior research has shown that systematic musical training results in changes to the brain that correlate with the enhancement of some specific musical abilities. However, musical training not only enhances the musical auditory perception, but also seems to have an impact on the processing of extra-musical cognitive abilities (e.g., working memory). According to the investigators, this is the first study to test the effect of musical training on attentional networks, which adds to previous research about the potential effect of musical practice on the development of extra-musical cognitive skills.

“Our findings of the relationship between musical training and improvement of attentional skills could be useful in clinical or educational fields, for instance, in strengthening the ability of ADHD individuals to manage distractions or the development of school programs encouraging the development of cognitive abilities through the deliberate practice of music. Future longitudinal research should directly address these interpretations,” noted co-investigator David Medina, BMEd, Department of Music, Metropolitan University of Educational Sciences, Santiago, Chile.

Source: Elsevier

Move More, Live Longer

If you’re a couch potato, get moving. Your life could depend on it.

Researchers say replacing 30 minutes a day of sitting with physical activity could cut your risk of premature death by nearly half.

They examined 14 years of data on inactivity and activity with more than 92,500 people in an American Cancer Society study.

Among those participants who were least active (less than 17 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity), replacing 30 minutes of sitting with light activity was associated with a 14 percent reduced risk of premature death.

And the least active people who replaced their sitting with a half-hour a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity had a 45 percent reduced risk of early death, the study found.

There were similar, but smaller benefits, among participants who were already moderately active.

Those more active people who replaced 30 minutes of sitting with light physical activity had a 6 percent reduced risk of premature death, while those who logged a half-hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity lowered their risk by 17 percent.

For those considered the most active — people who already get in more than 38 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous activity — sitting less and moving more were not associated with a reduced risk of early death.

“These findings suggest that the replacement of modest amounts of sitting time with even light physical activity may have the potential to reduce the risk of premature death among less active adults,” study author Erika Rees-Punia and colleagues said in an American Cancer Society news release. Rees-Punia is a postdoctoral fellow at the organization.

The study noted that regular moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and certain cancers. And more amounts of sedentary time is associated with a higher risk of disease and death.

Participants with high amounts of moderate/vigorous physical activity were leaner, more educated and less likely to be smokers. For all participants, sitting time largely included watching TV (39 percent) and reading (20 percent).

The study has several limitations, researchers noted. It relied on self-reported physical activity and sitting time, and it lacked information about activities of daily living such as cleaning, self-care and cooking that are common among older adults. In addition, participants were predominately white and educated, and may not represent the general U.S. population.

The findings were published online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Source: HealthDay


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What Works Best for Women Struggling With a Leaky Bladder?

Amy Norton wrote . . . . . . . . .

For women who need relief from bladder control problems, behavioral therapies are a better bet than medication, a new research review finds.

In an analysis of 84 clinical trials, researchers found that overall, women were better off with behavioral approaches to easing urinary incontinence than relying on medication.

Study patients were over five times more likely to see their symptoms improve with behavioral therapy, compared with no treatment.

Medication also helped, but not as much. Women treated with drugs alone were twice as likely to improve, compared to doing nothing.

“I think women with urinary incontinence should be encouraged to seek treatment,” said senior researcher Dr. Peter Jeppson, a urogynecologist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

“There are a variety of treatment options, almost all of which are better than doing nothing,” Jeppson said.

The findings were published online in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Almost half of women have problems with urine leakage at some point in their lives, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. And while men develop urinary incontinence, too, it’s more common among women, often arising during or after pregnancy, or after menopause.

The good news is, lifestyle changes often help, said Dr. Brian Stork. He’s a urologist and assistant clinical professor at Michigan Medicine West Shore Urology in Muskegon, Mich.

Stork, who is also a spokesman for the American Urological Association, was not involved in the review.

“Most urologists will prescribe behavioral approaches first, and then medication if needed,” he said.

Diet changes to cut out bladder irritants — like caffeine and alcohol — can be highly effective, according to Stork. So can exercises to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor. For some patients, he said, weight loss improves incontinence by relieving pressure on the bladder.

“Bladder training,” which involves scheduled bathroom trips, may also help, according to Dr. Anne Hardart, co-director of urogynecology at Mount Sinai West Hospital in New York City.

There are two main forms of urinary incontinence: stress incontinence, which causes urine to leak when the bladder is under pressure — from coughing, laughing or lifting a heavy object, for example; and urge incontinence, which causes a sudden, uncontrollable need to urinate.

Lifestyle changes can help both kinds of incontinence, Hardart said, but exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles are particularly effective for the stress form.

In her experience, Hardart said, some women are able to perform the exercises on their own, with the help of written instructions. Other women benefit from physical therapy to help them “find” those deep muscles, she said.

“In general, we’re going to start with behavioral approaches because they’re risk-free,” Hardart said. But that doesn’t mean they’re “easy,” she added, since they take some commitment.

And some patients, such as those with mild dementia or the after-effects of a stroke, may not be able to learn and consistently perform exercises, Stork said. They may need medication.

For urge incontinence, medications that can calm an overactive bladder include oxybutynin (Ditropan XL), tolterodine (Detrol) and darifenacin (Enablex).

The review found that those drugs worked better than doing nothing, but behavioral tactics were generally more effective for easing urge incontinence.

There are also potential side effects, Jeppson’s team pointed out, including dry mouth, nausea and fatigue.

In the United States, no medications are specifically approved for stress incontinence, Hardart said.

But, she added, there are non-drug options beyond exercise and lifestyle changes. Some women, for example, find relief from vaginal inserts that support the bladder.

If behavior changes and medication are not enough, Stork said, another option is neuromodulation, electrical stimulation of the nerves that control the bladder.

It can be done two ways, Hardart explained. A doctor can use a needle, inserted into the skin near the ankle, to deliver electrical impulses that reach the spinal nerves controlling the bladder. In more severe cases, a device can be implanted in the buttocks to stimulate sacral nerves that affect the bladder.

The review found that when neuromodulation was used as a third-line option, women were about four times more likely to see their symptoms improve, compared with no treatment.

The bottom line, according to Hardart, is that women don’t have to live with incontinence.

“There are a lot of options to try, and many are non-invasive,” she said

Source: HealthDay


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Infographic: What Really Extend Lifespan?

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Source : Information is Beautiful