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Of Interest to Everyone

Drug and alcohol addictions have long been called “Suicide on the slow.” Now, there’s a new member of the suicide class: Suicide by sugar.


Orlando Sentinel writer Mami Jameson provides a valuable insight:


A slightly expanded version, based on Jameson’s work, can be found in The Chicago Tribune:

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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.

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Testosterone may cause increased probability of dying among teenagers

Testosterone. It makes 18 the old 22 – at least physically.

It’s the male hormone that, from conception to old age, controls the lives of men and boys; and, now there’s evidence that it may be causing an “accident hump” – associated with an increased probability of dying among teenage boys.

The age of sexual maturity has been on a decline – about 2.5months each decade or more than two years per century – at least since the mid-18th Century but, the research has focused primarily on girls and used data analysis documented by medical records.

Testosterone may cause risky behaviour in teenagers“The reason for earlier maturity for boys, as with girls, is probably because nutrition and disease environments are getting favorable for it,” reports demographer Joshua Goldstein, director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock (Germany). Goldstein uncovered the male statistics by studying demographic data related to mortality. When male hormone production during puberty reaches a maximum level, the probability of dying increases – an “accident hump.” And the hump, which is statistically well-documented, is consistent in almost all societies.

Reviewing data for Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Great Britain and Italy since 1950, Goldstein discovered that the “accident hump” is getting earlier and earlier. It occurs in the late phase of puberty, after males reach reproductive capability and their voices change. It is attributed to the fact that young men participate in particularly risky behaviors when the release of testosterone reaches its maximum .  (However, it should be noted, that since 1950 the data is not clear but indicates stagnation.)

It is well-known that dangerous and reckless shows of strength, negligence, and a high propensity to violence lead to an increased number of fatal accidents. While the probability of a fatality remains low, the rate jumps considerably.

“Being 18 today is like being 22 in 1800,” reports Goldstein, who attributes the changes to better nutrition and an improved resilience against diseases. Moreover, it appears that the shift in age of maturity is biological and not related to technological advancements or social activities. “Researchers see for the first time how females and males have been equally responsive to changes in the environment,” notes Goldstein.

“The biological and social phases in the lives of young people are drifting apart ever stronger. While adolescents become adults earlier in a biological sense, they reach adulthood later regarding their social and economic roles.”

Sociological and life-cycle research show that for more than half a century the age at which people marry, have children, start their careers and become financially independent from their parents continue to rise.

Goldstein points out that this doesn’t only extend the period of physical adulthood during which young people do not yet have children. “Important decisions in life are being made with an increasing distance from the recklessness of youth.”  He points out that it remains unclear whether the “high-risk phase” of adolescence becomes more dangerous because it starts earlier. Although young men are less mentally and socially mature, their parents tend to supervise their children more closely when they are younger.

Goldstein points out that this doesn’t only extend the period of physical adulthood during which young people do not yet have children. “Important decisions in life are being made with an increasing distance from the recklessness of youth.”  He points out that it remains unclear whether the “high-risk phase” of adolescence becomes more dangerous because it starts earlier. Although young men are less mentally and socially mature, their parents tend to supervise their children more closely when they are younger.

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

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If you want to stop learn HALT!

It’s one of the most basic principles taught in any drug/alcohol/gambling/compulsive eating treatment program: If you want to stop, learn HALT.

The acronym stands for Hungry-angry-Lonely-Tired. They’re four mental/emotional/leading to relapse.

Now, a study that will be published in the November 2011 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research adds to what physicians and mental health professionals have known for generations: “Drinking alcohol may reduce maintaining a healthy diet, leading to adverse metabolic effects which in turn add to those directly produced by alcohol.” In short, excessive drinking and an unbalanced diet are two preventable contributors to health problems.

← Parental conflict may find its expression in infants sleep difficulties Posted on August 23, 2011 by Brain Training Centers Of Florida  It’s one of the most basic principles taught in any drug/alcohol/gambling/compulsive eating treatment program: If you want to stop, learn HALT.“On average, people who drink excessive alcohol are more likely to be careless in their dietary habits,” noted Miguel A. Martinez-Gonzalez, chair of the department of preventive medicine and public health at the University of Navarra (Spain) and co-author of the report. “A high alcohol intake is especially unhealthy with respect to liver disease. A high-energy food pattern rich in trans fats – such as ‘fast-foods’ or items from a commercial bakery — is also likely to be related to liver disease. In this sense, if both unhealthy lifestyles cluster together, they can act synergistically to produce very adverse effects.”

“The specific influence of alcohol on diet may depend upon the overall quantity of alcohol ingested, frequency of consumption, beverage preference, and whether alcohol intake takes place during meals,” said Jose Lorenzo Valencia-Martin, a doctor at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid and corresponding author for the study. “Alcohol may indirectly contribute to several chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, or cancer.”

The researchers found “drinking at mealtimes is associated with insufficient intake of healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and with excessive intake of animal protein,” according to Valencia-Martin.

The researchers conducted 12,037 telephone surveys between 2000 and 2005, among other issues, looked at binge drinking. In the end, “Excessive drinkers, either with or without binge drinking, showed a poor adherence to dietary recommendations,” said Valencia-Martin. “Although drinking at mealtimes has traditionally been considered a safe or even a healthy behavior, our results point to some unintended consequences that the general population should be aware of. In particular, drinking at mealtimes is associated with poor adherence to most of the food consumption guidelines.”

“’What do I have to change?’ is a standard question from men and women new to recovery from alcoholism and substance abuse. Most of the time, the answer is ‘Everything,’” noted Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy.D., CAP  director of clinical services of the Brain Training Centers of Florida and an addictions counselor. “And we always caution them about HALT. If you’re hungry, alcohol is quick and easy calories. Angry? Have a drink or two and you won’t be angry – until you are again. Lonely? Substance abusers have a relationship with their drugs of choice; alcohol or drugs are often their closest friends. And tired? The extra calories can be a quick picker-upper until it slams you,” said Flynn. “This new research takes the conventional wisdom about recovery one step further and applies it to many men and women who are not yet in trouble because of their alcohol use.”

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

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Drinking or consuming drugs when driving account for many accidents

That line we hear from teens and young adults about being safe drivers when they’ve been smoking marijuana is just that: A line of pure bovine by-product. And there’s good new scientific evidence for calling bull by-product just what it is.

The call came in at O’Dark Thirty and I slept through it. So, I responded as soon as I could see to hit the REDIAL button.

Dad is concerned that Junior is abusing alcohol and marijuana and doesn’t know how to proceed. While I wasn’t sure how he found my name and number, I pretty much knew the answers I would be getting to a few questions. Junior is an especially bright, rising senior at a Top 50 university, preparing for his med school admissions test, 21 years old. No, he hasn’t won the lottery, he’s not independently wealthy, and he’s not a trust-fund baby.

My answer: “Exercise the POWER OF THE PURSE STRINGS. The car is in your name. If he thinks he can get away with drinking, smoking marijuana and driving, he’s putting your and your family’s financial wellbeing at risk – especially if he has an accident and injures or kills someone. Oh, and he just might kill himself.”

Go ahead drink and driveIn the July 2011 edition of the Journal of Studies of Alcohol and Drugs, Eduardo Romano, Ph.D. and Robert B. Voas, Ph.D. of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation analyzed data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and found that approximately 25% of US drivers who died in a crash tested positive for drugs. Marijuana and stimulants, including cocaine and amphetamines, each accounted for about 23% of the positive tests.

While it is unclear whether or not drugs were to blame for the crashes, the 2007 National Roadside Survey found that 16% of nighttime weekend drivers tested positive for illegal drugs and the fact that drug use was almost twice as high among drivers in fatal crashes suggests that drugs do contribute to road deaths.

The researchers examined data from 1998 to 2009 for 44,000 fatally injured drivers involved in single-vehicle crashes and in which drivers were tested for drugs other than alcohol and had a known result. About 25% of drivers tested positive for drugs. Cannabinoids (marijuana and marijuana –related drugs) and stimulants (amphetamines and cocaine) each contributed to about 23% of the drug-positive results (6% among all fatally injured single-vehicle drivers). More than cannabinoids, stimulants were found to be associated with the four types of crashes under the study: speeding, failure to obey/yield, inattention, and seatbelt non-use. Marijuana was strongly linked only to speeding and seatbelt non-use.

Ultimately, however, alcohol is still the biggest roadway danger. Other drugs appear to be key only when drivers have not been drinking and drugging. That is, when someone drinks and uses drugs, the alcohol is the main reason for impaired – sometimes fatal – driving.

“Alcohol is still the largest contributor to fatal crashes,” reports Romano.

“The suspicion is there, because when you look at drivers who’ve been in fatal crashes, the percentage using drugs is a good deal higher,” said co-author Voas, For parents, teens and young adults, the answer is simple: “Don’t drink or don’t consume drugs when you’re going to drive,” said Romano, the lead author on the study.

And I remind parents whose kids don’t believe scientific research applies to them “You have the Power of the Purse Strings. Exercise it. It’s one helluvalot cheaper that losing home and everything you’ve ever worked for if Junior kills someone in your car. And is a infinitely better than spending a lifetime of grief and self-recrimination because you didn’t and he killed himself.”

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Log this site into your favorites: That’s right:

You have an early morning meeting for which you must be in tip-top shape.

You have a critical exam scheduled for 10:00 a.m..

In either case, you already know that a good night’s sleep is essential for your best possible performance.

But, you should also know that an alarm clock going-off while your in the middle of a sleep cycle may actually lower your performance.

Research shows that most of us sleep on roughly 90 minute cycles and we do better with only four cycles rather than four-and-a-half or five cycles instead of five-and-a-half – even though that might seem counter-intuitive to some. will help you figure out the best time to turn out the light tonight in order to get the best possible performance tomorrow.

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

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Using Caution Regarding Blows to the Head is Very Important

         With the start of the academic year and intramural and interscholastic sports, parents and coaches have a special role in protecting young athletes from head injuries.

            That is the caution of Francis J. Flynn, Psy.D, CAP, director of the Brain Training Centers of Florida.

            “Any trauma that leads to injury of the scalp, skull, or brain has to be considered a trauma,” cautions Dr. Flynn, who noted that there are two types of head injuries – closed, resulting from a hard blow to the skull from hitting the skull or being hit; and open or penetrating, resulting the skull actually being broken and/or entered by an object.

            “It’s risky, even life threatening, to underplay the importance of even minor hits to the head, especially if the student athlete becomes disoriented. “There’s no such thing as ‘just a little hit to the head’ or being ‘a little dizzy for a couple of minutes,’” cautions Flynn.

            While concussions – in which the brain is shaken – are the most common type of traumatic brain injury, contusions or brain bruising can also be a be a cause for concern. A subarachnoid hemorrhage is bleeding in the area between the brain and the thin tissues that covers the brain; a subdural hematoma – usually the result of a serious head injury – is a collection of blood on the surface of the brain. Acute subdural hematomas are among the deadliest of all head injuries, with blood filling the brain area very rapidly and compressing brain tissue. Surprisingly subdural hematomas can occur after a very minor head injury – especially among the very young and elderly – and may be unnoticed for days or weeks. In any subdural hematoma, tiny veins between the brain and its outer covering – the dura – stretch and tear. Subdural hematomas often result from reoccurring falls and repeated head injuries.

            Parents and coaches should recognize the symptoms of possibly serious brain injuries:


·         Confused or slurred speech

·         Weakness

·         Decreased consciousness and alertness

·         Eyes – pupils – different sizes

·         Difficulty with balance or walking or loss of movement or feeling

·        Headaches

·        Mood and personality changes, including confusion and irritability

·        Lethargy (unexplained feeling tired) or confusion

·        Muscle aches – especially neck and shoulder pains

·        Loss of consciousness

·        Nausea and vomiting

·        Seizures

·        Numbness

·        Visual disturbances

·        Drooping eyelid(s)

                In the event of any of these symptoms after even the slightest blow to the head, individuals should see a physician – in an emergency room, if necessary, cautions Flynn.

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Cheap Drinks At College Bars Can Escalate Drinking Among College Students

ScienceDaily (Sep. 2, 2009) — It’s no secret that alcohol use among college students can cause a number of problems, including injury, violence and even death. A new study has examined the impact of drink discounts at college bars, finding that low alcohol prices at drinking establishments pose genuine threats to public health and safety.

Results will be published in the November issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.

“It may seem intuitive that cheaper alcohol can lead to higher intoxication levels and related consequences – such as fighting, drunk driving, sexual victimization, injury, even death – especially among the vulnerable college student population,” said Ryan J. O’Mara, a graduate research fellow at the University of Florida and corresponding author for the study. “Nonetheless, ‘drink specials’ and other alcohol discounts and promotions remain a common feature of college bars in campus communities in the United States. This study’s results challenge assertions sometimes made by the management of these establishments that drink discounts are innocuous marketing practices intended only to attract customers to better bargains than those provided elsewhere.”

“What makes this study unique,” added John D. Clapp, professor and director of the San Diego State University Center for Alcohol and Drug Studies, “is that it was one of the first to examine this relationship at the bar-patron level using methods that carefully examined price – that is, what people actually spent – and biologically measured intoxication.”

“Most of this prior research has relied on population-level data, for example, comparing alcohol taxes and alcohol sales at the state level,” explained O’Mara. “Our study examines this price-behavior relationship at the individual, or consumer, level in a natural drinking setting. We did this study in college bars because previous research has shown that young adults are more sensitive to alcohol price changes than older populations who generally have more disposable income.”

O’Mara and his colleagues collected data on 804 patrons (495 men, 309 women) exiting seven bars adjacent to a large university campus on four consecutive nights during April 2008 in the southeastern United States. The data included anonymous interview and survey information, breath alcohol concentration (BrAC) readings, as well as each patron’s expenditures per unit of alcohol consumed, based on self-reported information given regarding the type, size, number, and cost of consumed drinks.

“We estimated each patron’s cost per gram of ethanol (pure alcohol) consumed at a bar,” said O’Mara. “For example, one male participant consumed five 12-ounce bottles of a domestic beer (4.2% ethanol), or approximately 56 grams of ethanol. He paid $5.00 for all of these drinks, so we calculated that he spent about nine cents per gram of ethanol consumed at a bar. His BrAC upon leaving the bar district was just above 0.08, the presumptive legal limit for driving in the US. We found that increases in cost per gram of ethanol were associated with lower levels of intoxication. For example, patrons with the lowest level of intoxication, a BrAC of less than 0.02, paid on average $4.44 for a standard drink or 14 grams of ethanol versus patrons with the highest level of intoxication, a BrAC of more than 0.16, who paid $1.81 per drink.”

In other words, researchers found that for each $1.40 increase in the average price paid for a standard drink, the patron was 30 percent less likely to leave the bar district with a BrAC above 0.08. Essentially, higher alcohol prices were associated with less risk of being inebriated when driving away from a bar.

“It is not surprising that moderate price increases in standard drinks significantly reduce the risk of intoxication,” noted Clapp, “as this relationship is well established at the population level. However, given that college students tend to have limited disposable income, determining potentially protective price points for drinks is important. The main research innovation of this study is methodological; their measurement approach to determining alcohol cost per gram advances the way such costs are typically determined.”

“In our current economic recession,” said O’Mara, “it is quite possible that some people with little disposable income are highly sensitive to alcohol price changes. A future study should seek to determine which specific populations are most vulnerable to drink discounting at bars.”

He added that he is skeptical that bars and nightclubs that cater to college students would voluntarily eliminate drink discounts. “I suspect their primary aim is to generate revenue,” O’Mara said, “which unfortunately conflicts with protecting public health and safety.”

Clapp agreed. “Bars often argue that college students cannot afford to drink at ‘regular’ prices and thus inexpensive alcohol is a business necessity,” he said. “Moreover, bar owners often argue such cheaper drinks do not result in drunkenness or other problems. This study suggests otherwise. Students will purchase more expensive alcoholic drinks and, when they do, become less intoxicated. It would seem from a both a business and public-health standpoint, inexpensive drinks are a problem.”

Adapted from materials provided by Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

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In the beginning – only a couple of generations ago, there was neuroanatomy; then came neurology and neurophysiology, and neurochemistry.

And now… Neurotheology or Neurospirituality. The emerging new field that not only studies the brains and brain functioning of men and women committed to a wide range of spiritual practices, but may actually lead to greater spiritual experiences – even for non-believers.

“We’ve known for years that Buddhist monks and Catholic nuns can boost their ‘brain power’ through prayer and meditation, but the newest research appears to indicate that everyone, including atheists and agnostics, can experience many of the mental benefits derived from religious practices,” reported Francis J. Flynn, Psy.D., CAP, president of Brain Training Centers of Florida.

Flynn points to How God Changes Your Brain, a “critical new work” by Andrew Newberg, as a “must read” for men and women interested in personal/spiritual growth or simply experiencing the profound benefits of spiritual practices.

Newberg, director of the Center for Spirituality and the Mind at the University of Pennsylvania, and co-author Mark Robert Waldman, a therapist at the Center, point out that “neurotheology” – the study of the brain’s role in religious belief – is starting to allow scientists and understand what happens in believer’s brains when they contemplate God.

Newberg and Waldman draw attention to “god circuits” – neural systems in several different parts of the brain – that become active in the practice of mediation. These same circuits, including the parietal-frontal circuit and parts of the frontal lobe, play a role in creating and integrating ideas about God.

“This new work is especially exciting for men and women who are already actively involved in meditation – for spiritual growth or as a part of a 12-Step program of recovery,” notes Flynn. He reports that in the past year the Brain Training Centers of Florida has served several clients with histories of “from five to more than thirty years of daily meditation. In every case, they reported that their Brain Training experiences intensified and deepened their meditation practices – adding new, albeit anecdotal evidence  to the effectiveness of combining the newest in computer sciences and neurological studies to ancient forms of spirituality.”

“It’s possible that even the most religiously committed men, and individuals who are simply seeking a greater connectedness to the Universe or their individual Higher Power can now experience significant personal breakthroughs using the gift of technology,” noted Flynn.

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Importance of Quieting The Brain

August 5th, 2009 by Dr. Paul Nussbaum

In addition to a good night sleep and plenty of rest to enable the brain to consolidate information learned during the day, the brain also benefits from quiet moments during the day.

A quiet moment does not involve any goal, task completion, or endpoint. It is about process and about being in the here and now. A quiet moment can occur anywhere at any time so long as you permit your brain to shut down and to turn inward.

Removing structure and demand from your existence enables your brain to freely roam and to explore ideas and feelings that get shut out with structure and task driven behavior. Your most creative moments will come from such experiences.

It is not easy to create quiet moments. You need to establish parts of your day when you remove all chores, all responsibilities, and all task demands. It is simply time to be, for you to exist. It might mean a walk, sitting on a bench or under a tree, or playing an instrument. There is no conscious deliberation, it is meditative and introspective.

Sounds easy, but it is not. Give it a try and perhaps you will get in touch with your creative side!

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