Archive for June, 2011

A good night sleep proves critical for healthy marriage

A “good night’s sleep” is proving more critical that many of us ever thought; it may be critical to the preservation of a marriage and can potentially keep inches off your waist.

When it comes to the ever-important world of sleep and the differences between men and women, here’s just one example of the fact that sometimes life really isn’t fair: If hubby tosses and turns, it doesn’t appear to affect the marriage but, if she’s rollin’ in the rack, it may critically affect the relationship.

At least that’s the report of Wendy M. Troxel, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, at the 25th Anniversary meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, June 11–15, 2011, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Effects Of Sleep Deprivation“We found that wives’ sleep problems affect her own and her spouse’s marital functioning the next day, and these effects were independent of depressive symptoms,” reported Troxekl. “Specifically, wives who took longer to fall asleep the night before reported poorer marital functioning the next day, and so did their husbands

The sleep issues – episodes of waking after sleep onset and total sleep time – of 32 “healthy” married couples were followed for ten night using electronic diaries to measure the quality of marital interactions and measured against the sleep data. The study concluded that insomnia could negatively impact a marriage.

The results show that when wives take longer to fall asleep at night it predicted their husbands’ reports of less positive marital interaction the following day. But the opposite results – husbands taking longer to fall asleep and negative impact on the marriage – did not materialize. strife.

The authors pointed to their results as proof that insomnia can be a warning sign for marital strife. “These results highlight the importance of considering the interpersonal consequences of sleep and sleep loss,” Troxel said.

Two studies presented at the Minneapolis meeting show that being sleepy can affect our desire for carb-heavy goods.

In a study of 262 high school seniors who answered surveys on sleepiness, carb cravings, and depression, researchers discovered that as daytime sleepiness became more acute, so did a craving for carbs. Teens who had extreme daytime sleepiness had a 50% higher chance of also “jonesing” for carbs. In addition, participants who were very depressed were nearly three times more likely to crave carbs.

“This study is important given the rising epidemic of obesity among teens as well as increasing metabolic syndrome and diabetes among young adult populations,” said Mahmood Siddique of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey, in a news release. “This study highlights the importance of diagnosing sleep deprivation as a risk factor for obesity among young adults. Those who are depressed and sleep-deprived may be at special risk for obesity.”

In a second study, researchers found that sleeplessness adds to the attraction for rich, delicious foods. Twelve men and women age 19 to 45 underwent functional MRI studies while looking at pictures of high- and low-calorie foods, as well as images or rocks and plants, which served as study controls. Subjects were also surveyed about the intensity of their daytime sleepiness.

While looking at photos of high-calorie foods, subjects who reported higher levels of daytime sleepiness showed less activity in their brain’s prefrontal cortex; the prefrontal cortex is where decision-making takes place – the advantages and disadvantages of an anticipated event are weighed and social controls and inhibitions are exercised.  While researchers are not certain that being overly tired will result in downing an entire bag of potato chips or a plate of brownies, they noted that additional studies may be warranted. “Given the chronic level of sleep restriction in our society, such relationships could have epidemiologic implications regarding the current increase in obesity in westernized countries,” noted study co-author study William Killgore of Harvard Medical School

Posted in: Health & Exercise, Sleep Issues

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Cannabis abuse causes abnormalities of the cannabinoid receptors in the brain

It really, really – I mean really – ain’t your daddy’s dope any more. In fact, it ain’t the weed of the 60s, 70s or 80s. It’s not even the smoke of the 90s.

And now, (Surprise! Surprise! Or maybe not so!?!?) comes news that that today’s more powerful THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol – the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) doesn’t just attach to receptor sites in the brain; it also attaches to receptors through the body and involved in a wide range of digestive, cardiovascular, respiratory and other systems. In the brain, it influences mental states including pleasure, concentration, perception of time and memory, sensory perception, and coordination of movement.

While CB1 receptors involve functions in the Central Nervous System, CB2 involved the immune system and stem cells in the circulatory system.

The effects of cannabis and receptors in the brain“With this study, we were able to show for the first time that people who abuse cannabis have abnormalities of the cannabinoid receptors of the brain,” reported Jussi Hirvonen, MD, PhD, lead author of a collaborative study between the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The report was issued during the Society of Nuclear Medicine’s 58th Annual Meeting, June 4-8, 2011, San Antonio, Texas.

One item of good news emerging from the study is that this research shows that the decreased receptors in people who abuse cannabis return to normal when they stop smoking the drug. In addition, this new information may provide critical information for the development of new treatments for cannabis abuse.

The researchers recruited 30 chronic cannabis smokers and monitored them closely at an inpatient facility for approximately four weeks. Positron Emission Tomography (PET) provided information about physiological processes in the body. Subjects received injections of a radioligant, 18F-FMPEP-d2 – a combination of radioactive fluorine isotope and a neurotransmitter analog that binds with CB1 brain receptors.

Results of the study indicate that – when compared to healthy control subjects with limited exposure to cannabis during their lifetime – chronic smokers experienced a decrease of about 20 percent in the number of receptors. These changes were found to have a correlation with the number of years subjects had smoked. After a month of abstinence, 14 of the subjects had a second PET scan that indicated that there was a marked increase in receptor activity in those areas that had been decreased at the outset of the study – an indicator that, although chronic cannabis smoking causes downregulation of CB1 receptors, the damage is reversible with abstinence.

For further information, see the SNM press release:

Posted in: Addiction, Neuroplasticity

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I recently revisited The Sociopath Next Door

Here’s a little secret about psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors: We tend to see specific pathologies – mental illnesses – in settings in which we expect to see them and we overlook or miss them when we’re not expecting them.

For example:

  • As a prison chaplain, it was easy to recognize the sociopathy of a 22 year-old who beat an old lady to death for her Social Security money and wanted my help in getting to an “easy” prison; he complained that his life sentence wasn’t “fair.”
  • It was more difficult to recognize the pathology of the guard who took profound personal pleasure in surrounding himself with inmates who would beat up other inmates – for the guard’s sick entertainment.
  • As a counselor and priest it was easy to recognize the greedy, manipulative, self-centered and self-seeking, SOB ex-husband who continues to drag the mother of his son into court twice a year (always scheduling trials for the weeks of her final exams) – just to break her down; by his own choice, he’s had no contact with his son for more than two years but that means nothing to him.
  • When she walked into my office with her husband, (who was desperately trying to save his marriage), I’d never have thought she was a sociopath. At the end of the session (all about her and what she wanted for herself and how everyone else was wrong – all without any display of emotion or the ability to understand others’ feelings, I grab her beaten husband and whispered in his ear, “Run! Run as fast and far as you can. Never turn back. Run and save yourself, so one day you can save your kids.

I recently revisited The Sociopath Next Door (Martha Stout, Ph.D., Broadway Books, 2005) and re-examined the histories of too many clients who were the child- and employee- and student- and spouse-victims of the smiling sociopaths in their jobs, homes, schools and neighborhoods.

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of Stout’s work is the repeated assertion (also found on the cover) “1 in 25 Americans secretly has no conscience and can do anything at all without feeling guilty.”

In a work replete with case-based examples, Stout opens with a thorough discussion of conscience, concluding:

Nice behavior, prudent action, thoughts about how other people will react to us, honorable conduct in the interest of our self-regard… none can be defined as the individual’s conscience. This is because conscience is not a behavior at all, not something that we do or even something that we think or mull over. Conscience is something that we feel. In other words, conscience is neither behavioral nor cognitive. Conscience exists primarily in the realm of “affect,” better known as emotion

Conscience does not exist without an emotional bond to someone or something, and in this way conscience is closely allied with the spectrum of emotion we call “love.” This alliance is what gives true conscience its resilience and its astonishing authority over those who have it, and probably also its confusing and frustrating quality.

For Stout, as a result of factors that may include genetically-based disruptions in brain functioning, the sociopath is incapable of loving (anyone but him- or herself) and, therefore, has neither empathy nor conscience; for the sociopath every element of life – relationships with employees or clients, spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend, children or parents – is about “the game” and getting over on anyone and everyone just for the sake of getting over and “winning.”

Especially for ex- spouses whose former partners continue to draw them into court purely for the thrill of the game, for employees or neighbors who feel besieged by a coworker or neighbor whose only apparent motivation is to make others miserable Stout’s quick read – 218 pages – may well be life and sanity saving.

Of particular value are her “Thirteen Rules For Dealing With Sociopaths In Everyday Life”:

  1. …[A]ccepting that some people literally have no conscience…

  2. In a contest between your instincts and what is implied by the role a person has taken on – educator, doctor, leader, animal lover, humanist, parent – go with your instincts…

  3. When considering a new relationship of any kind, practice the Rule of Three regarding the claims and promises a person makes and responsibilities he or she has. Make the Rule of Three your personal policy… One lie, one broken promise, or a single neglected responsibility may be a misunderstanding. Two may involve a serious mistake. But three lies says you’re dealing with a liar, and deceit is the linchpin of conscienceless behavior. Cut your losses and get out as soon as you can…

  4. Question authority…

  5. Suspect flattery… Throughout all human history and to the present, the call to war has included the flattering claim that one’s own forces are about to accomplish a victory that will change the world for the better, a triumph that is morally laudable, justified by its humane outcome, unique in human endeavor, righteous and worthy of enormous gratitude. Since we began to record the human story, all of our major wars have been framed in this way, on all sides of the conflict, and in all languages the adjective most often applied to the word war is holy…

  6. If necessary, redefine your concept of respect…

  7. Do not join the game…

  8. The best way to protect your self from a sociopath is to avoid him, to refuse any kind of contact or communication…

  9. Question your tendency to pity too easily…

10.  Do not try to redeem the unredeemable…

11.  Never agree, out of pity or for any other reason, to help a sociopath conceal his or her true character…

12.  Defend your psyche…

13.  Living well is the best revenge….

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