Archive for September, 2011

Supportive relationships may protect us from consequences of impulsivity

What do the Beatles tune “With A Little Help From My friends,” kamikazes (the drinks not the warriors), and an unexpected trip to a cemetery have in common?

Well, almost nothing except that alcohol and impulsivity are a dangerous mix and people with current drinking problems and poor impulse control are more likely to die in the next 15 years, according to researchers at the Center for Health Care Evaluation of the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Supportive-Relationships-Brain-Training-Centers-FloridaThe study, which appears online and in the November 2011 issue of the journal Alcohol: Clinical and Experimental Research, indicates that alcohol abusers with poor impulse control could get by with a little help from their friends and a strong social support network may buffer the toxic effects of impulsivity.

While alcohol misuse has long been associated with increased risk of premature death, impulsivity – excessive risk-taking, disregard of consequences and poor self-control – has been shown to affect life expectancy regardless of drinking habits.

Lead author Daniel Blonigen, PhD. And his team tested 515 people when they first sought help for drinking problems and again one year later, and then followed them for another 15 years. During this period, 93 individuals died and those who scored high on a measure of impulsivity a year after seeking help for their drinking problems were more likely to die in the following years. These results also held true even after researchers took factors like drinking severity and existing physical health problems into account.

Although the research did not explain why impulsivity compounds the risk of alcohol misuse, “Based on past research, impulsivity is related to a wide range of health risk behaviors [besides heavy alcohol consumption], like smoking, drug use, dangerous driving and risky sexual activities,” Blonigen reported. Impulsive behavior can also increase exposure to stressful situations, with a negative physiological impart.

However, the study found that individuals who reported strong supportive relationships with peers and friends may be somewhat protected from the consequences of their impulsivity – and less likely to die than those who lacked those social resources.

“One of the great lessons to be drawn from this research is that individuals with histories of risk taking and alcohol or drug abuse really benefit from support groups like Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous,” observed Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy.D., founder of the Brain Training Centers of Florida. “This new research indicates that when clients take active participation in a Twelve Step program as a serious and critical adjunct to any other form of substance abuse therapy, it may have the additional benefit of adding years to their lives in recovery,” said Flynn.

Posted in: Addiction

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Comfort foods may really be all in your brain

Donuts, ice cream, mashed potatoes, cheese cake. The reason they’re called COMFORT FOODS may really be all in your brain, according to researchers at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Calgary (Canada).

Turns out that under stress the food drive in rats is increased and this insight, published in the August 11 online edition of the journal Neuron, could provide important insight into how and why stress contributes to obesity.

COMFORT FOODS may really be all in your brainEndocannabinoids are neurotransmitters – chemicals responsible for communication among cells in the brain – and they send signals to control appetite. The Canadian researchers found that when food is not present rats experience a stress respons that temporarily causes a functional rewiring in the brain and may impair the endocannabinoids’ ability to regular food intake and could contribute to an enhanced desire or craving for food. When the researchers blocked the effects of stress hormones in the brain, the absence of food caused no change in the neural circuitry.

The Canadian researchers – Jaideep Bains, Quentin Pittman, Kareen M. Crosby, and Watauru Inoue – studied neurons (nerve calls) in the hypothalamus, a region of the brain known to play an important role in the control of appetite and metabolism, which has also been identified as the primary region responsible for the brain’s response to stress.

Their findings, explained Bains, “could help explain how the cellular communication in our brains may be overridden in the absence of food. Increasingly, these changes are driven not necessarily by the lack of nutrients, but rather by the stress induced by the lack of food.”

Pittman noted that “If we elect to pass over a meal, the brain appears to simply increase the drive in pathways leading to appetite. Furthermore, the fact that the lack of food causes activation of the stress response might help explain the relationship between stress and obesity.

“One thing we can say for sure, is that this research highlights the importance of food availability to our nervous system. The absence of food clearly brings about dramatic changes in the way our neurons communicate with each other,” said Pittman.

While this study employed rats, it is possible that it will also lead to insights into the relationship between stress and food cravings in humans,” noted Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy.D., founder and director of clinical services of the Brain Training Centers of Florida.

“By using a combination of individualized neurobiofeedback and Cognitive Behavioral counseling, we’ve assisted more than a dozen clients achieve quiet and balanced brains and, in turn, reverse histories of repeated failures at weight loss or weight control,” said Flynn. “It would, however, be foolish to expect a kind of shortcuts to weight loss and long-term health. In addition to addressing neural – brain – issues, we must assist clients in accomplishing healthy eating and exercise programs, as well as appropriate life style changes.”

Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.

Posted in: Featured, Health & Exercise

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