Thursday, May 26, 2016

his nonspeaking teenager wrote an incredibly profound letter explaining autism

By Colby Itkowitz May 19 

This Non-Verbal Jewish Teen Wrote a Breathtaking Letter Explaining Autism

For the first 14 and a half years of Gordy’s life, Evan and Dara Baylinson had no reason to think their son could comprehend anything they said: He had never spoken, and he couldn’t really emote. They worried aloud about his future, not filtering what they said, because they didn’t think he understood.
But Gordy, it now appears, was absorbing everything.
“My brain, which is much like yours, knows what it wants and how to make that clear,” he wrote in a letter he sent this month to a police officer. “My body, which is much like a drunken, almost six-foot toddler, resists.”
He typed each letter one at a time with his right index finger. No one coached him, edited his words or told him what to say, according to his parents and therapist.  After two one-hour sessions, he had written a nearly 400-word note. [See full letter below.]
“This letter is not a cry for pity, pity is not what I’m looking for,” he wrote. “I love myself just the way I am, drunken toddler body and all. This letter is, however, a cry for attention, recognition and acceptance.”
Unbeknownst to his parents for so many years, their son was a beautiful writer with a lot to say.
Gordy’s autism spectrum disorder was diagnosed when he was 17 months old. Gordy, now 16, doesn’t speak, but his mind is a treasure trove of knowledge and opinions about the world that he has picked up from listening.
But it wasn’t until February 2015 that his parents found that out.
It was then that one of Gordy’s many therapists, Meghann Parkinson, started teaching him the Rapid Prompting Method, a relatively new communication technique developed for people with severe autism. She asked him questions and he answered by pointing to letters on an alphabet board. In a little more than a year, Gordy has advanced to a QWERTY keyboard, his words appearing in large font on an iPad screen propped in front of him as he types.
The technique is very controversial, with some experts convinced that therapists are leading the autistic children who employ it. But others say it’s possible that in a minority of cases people like Gordy can learn to communicate independently using the technique and can benefit from it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Google Library Project Legal: Let the Robots Read!

The decade-long legal battle over Google’s massive book scanning project is finally over, and it’s a huge win for libraries and fair use. On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by the Author’s Guild, which had argued that Google’s scanning of millions of books was an infringement of copyright on a grand scale. The Supreme Court’s decision means that the Second Circuit case holding that Google’s creation of a database including millions of digital books is fair use still stands. The appeals court explained how its fair use rationale aligns with the very purpose of copyright law: “[W]hile authors are undoubtedly important intended beneficiaries of copyright, the ultimate, primary intended beneficiary is the public, whose access to knowledge copyright seeks to advance by providing rewards for authorship.”
Google Books gives readers and internet users the world over access to millions of works that had previously been hidden away in the archives of our most elite universities. As a Google representative said in a statement, “The product acts like a card catalog for the digital age by giving people a new way to find and buy books while at the same time advancing the interests of authors.”
Google began scanning books in partnership with a group of university libraries in 2004. In 2005, author and publisher groups filed a class action lawsuit to put a stop to the project. The parties agreed to settle the lawsuit in a manner that would have forever changed the legal landscape around book rights. The District Court judge rejected the settlement in 2011, based on concerns about competition, access, and fairness, and so litigation over the core question of fair use resumed.
Judge Chin, Judge Leval, and the Supreme Court all made the right decisions along the long and winding path to Google’s victory. Libraries around the country are now free to rely on fair use as they determine how to manage their own digitization projects–encouraging innovation and increasing our access to human knowledge.

Internet Archive is a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, and more.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The 7 worst body language mistakes job seekers make

Your dream employer is hiring, so you do your homework, submit your résumé, land yourself an interview, and kill it in the hot seat. You're pretty confident it's in the bag.
But on your way out, you shake the interviewer's hand, thank him for his time, and completely blow your chances. 
How? The handshake was weak and you failed to make eye contact.
That's right: These simple mistakes can cost you the job, according to body language expert Tonya Reiman, author of "The Power of Body Language."
"When someone first meets you, an evaluation is quietly and unconsciously taking place," she explains. "There is an incredible amount of processing going on as millions of neurons in the brain are activated and working to determine if they believe you to be credible, trustworthy, and likable. That impression is based primarily on your nonverbal communication."
So, from the moment you arrive for a job interview until the moment you leave, you need to be keenly aware of your gestures and nonverbal cues.
Here are seven common body language mistakes that can cost you the job.

Monday, May 23, 2016

21 common body language mistakes even smart people make

The brain picks up nonverbal cues in a fifth of a second, much faster than verbal ones.
Don't let your unconscious signals send the wrong message. Learn to avoid these all-too-easy mistakes
May 3, 2016


1. Leaning back
If you want to signal that you care about a conversation or the person you're having it with, don't lean back and stick your legs out in front of you. Sit up straight, or lean in.

2. Crossed arms and/or legs
This is such a clear indicator of disinterest that some experts recommend actually ending a meeting or conversation if you see one or more people lean back and cross their arms. Crossed legs may be a danger sign as well.

3. Not making eye contact
If you don't look the person in front of you in the eyes, he or she may unconsciously assume that you are being dishonest. Practiced liars make a point of looking in people's eyes — so don't make the mistake of equating eye contact with honesty yourself.

4. Making too much eye contact
Not looking someone in the eyes can make you seem dishonest, but looking them in the eyes for too long is usually a sign of aggression. To make people feel comfortable and trusting, hold their gaze for just a second or two at a time, but do it often.

5. Clasped hands
This is something people do when they feel stress — you're literally holding your own hand! Don't do it if you want to project self-assurance.

Business Insider
6. Hands behind back or in pockets
This is a natural position many of us take unconsciously, but it can be seen as a sign that we have something to hide.

7. Chopping the air
Many people do this when they feel strongly about something or want to emphasize a point. But it can be off-putting — almost as if you're chopping off your connection with the person you're speaking with.

8. Touching your face
Touching your face, especially your nose and mouth, is another one of those gestures that is unconsciously interpreted as a sign of deception — or resistance, if you're listening rather than speaking. 

9. Nodding too many times
Nodding is an essential part of communication and lets other people know you understand or agree with what they're saying. But doing it too many times can make you seem weak. It can also come across as a sign of indifference.

10. Fidgeting
People fidget when they're uncomfortable or bored, so that's the signal you'll send if you're bouncing your leg or constantly messing with your hair. Just don't do it.

11. Hunching your shoulders
Hunched or slumped shoulders are seen as a sign of unhappiness — and they often are. People with clinical depression slump their shoulders more often than others. To project happiness and confidence, stand up straight, like mom nagged you to do.

12. Wrapping your feet or ankles around the legs of a chair
Like clasped hands, this gesture signals that you're uncomfortable and need to comfort yourself. If you're trying to project confidence, don't do it.

13. Making yourself too small
Amy Cuddy's fascinating work proves that people who practice expansive body language feel more confident or secure as a result. The reverse is also true: Body language that makes you seem small will make you feel small. 

14. Overly big gestures
Your body language should be expansive to project confidence. But don't make the mistake of making great big gestures (unless you're on stage speaking to an audience). In a non-performance context, it can be seen as arrogant.

15. Letting your feet point the wrong way
Our feet often unconsciously express what we're really feeling, for example by pointing away from the person we're speaking with. Most people pay more attention to faces, but it's a good idea to keep your feet on-message as well. 

16. Patting your leg or legs
This is a huge self-comforting gesture that will show how uncomfortable you are. Watch Britney Spears on Dateline gamely claiming her marriage was fine a few months before her divorce. She can't stop touching her leg.

17. Glancing at a watch or phone
We think we can peek at the time or a text without people noticing, but they always do. Don't shift your attention from the conversation unless you absolutely have to. If so, explain why — that you are awaiting an urgent message, for example.

18. Touching someone with your fingertips
In appropriate situations, touching someone lightly is a great way to begin building a bond (or indicate romantic interest). But use your whole hand. A fingertip touch signals aversion.

19. Failing to "mirror"
People who are listening closely to what someone else is saying will often unconsciously mirror that person's body language. Use this technique — consciously or unconsciously — to let people know you really care about what they have to say.

20. Invading someone's personal space.
We all have a different idea of how much "buffer" we need around ourselves to feel comfortable. So when you come close to someone, err on the side of giving that person a little extra room.

21. Forgetting that these rules might be different in different places.
Body language has very different meanings in other cultures. Keep that in mind when dealing with people from different countries, or even other parts of this country. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Health officials say too many preschoolers with ADHD still are being put on drugs right away _ before behavior therapy is tried

By MIKE STOBBE, AP Medical Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Too many preschoolers with ADHD still are being put on drugs right away, before behavior therapy is tried, health officials say.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday that three in four young kids diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are put on medicines. New CDC data shows that's continued, even after research found behavior therapy is as effective and doesn't give children stomach aches, sleep problems or other drug side effects.
Why? Health insurance coverage for behavior therapy may vary from state to state and company to company. And in some areas, therapists are in short supply, some experts said.
On Tuesday, CDC officials doubled down on its previous recommendations, calling on doctors and families to try behavior therapy first.
ADHD makes it hard for kids to pay attention and control impulsive behavior. More than 6 million U.S. children have been diagnosed with it.
"By the time a parent comes to meet with me, they are tired and worried," Dr. Georgina Peacock, a CDC developmental pediatrician who works with ADHD families. "They are concerned their child might jump down a flight of stairs, that the child could get lost in a grocery store, or that the child could be kicked out of preschool."
There's no blood test for ADHD. Diagnosis is a matter of expert opinion.
Studies have shown medications like ritalin help older children with ADHD. That success has fed a trend to treat younger kids the same way, but there's been less study of how effective and safe the drugs are for preschoolers.
In behavior therapy, a therapist trains parents — commonly over eight or more sessions — how to guide a child's behavior through praise, communication, routine and consistent discipline. However, it can take longer and demand more of parents.
In its new analysis, the CDC looked at insurance claims data for children ages 2 to 5. About a third of ADHD diagnoses in children are made by age 6, and many of those children have more pronounced symptoms.
The CDC found 75 percent of the children were on medicine. That was true both of Medicaid-covered children in low-income families, and kids covered by private insurance.

In contrast, only around half of children had received psychological services that might include behavior therapy training, the CDC found.

Saturday, May 21, 2016


May 09, 2016

Society’s increasingly pervasive use of digital technology may be causing ADHD-like symptoms even among the general population, according to a new study of college students presented today in San Jose, California at the Human-Computer Interaction conference of the Association for Computing Machinery.
“Less than 10 years ago, Steve Jobs promised that smartphones ‘will change everything,’” said Kostadin Kushlev, a psychology research scientist at the University of Virginia, who led the study with colleagues at the University of British Columbia. “And with the Internet in their pockets, people today are bombarded with notifications – whether from email, text messaging, social media or news apps – anywhere they go. We are seeking to better understand how this constant inflow of notifications influences our minds.”
Kushlev said that recent polls have shown that as many as 95 percent of smartphone users have used their phones during social gatherings; that seven in 10 people used their phones while working; and one in 10 admitted to checking their phones during sex. Smartphone owners spend nearly two hours per day using their phones.
The researchers designed a two-week experimental study and showed that when students kept their phones on ring or vibrate, they reported more symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity than when they kept their phones on silent.
“We found the first experimental evidence that smartphone interruptions can cause greater inattention and hyperactivity – symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – even in people drawn from a nonclinical population,” Kushlev said.
During Kushlev’s and his colleagues’ study, 221 students at the University of British Columbia drawn from the general student population were assigned for one week to maximize phone interruptions by keeping notification alerts on, and their phones within easy reach. During another week participants were assigned to minimize phone interruptions by keeping alerts off and their phones away. At the end of each week, participants completed questionnaires assessing inattention and hyperactivity. The results showed that the participants experienced significantly higher levels of inattention and hyperactivity when alerts were turned on.
The results suggest that even people who have not been diagnosed with ADHD may experience some of the disorder’s symptoms, including distraction, difficulty focusing and getting bored easily when trying to focus, fidgeting, having trouble sitting still, difficulty doing quiet tasks and activities, and restlessness.
“Smartphones may contribute to these symptoms by serving as a quick and easy source of distraction,” Kushlev said.
Kushlev emphasized, however, that ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder with a complex biological and environmental etiology.
“Our findings suggest neither that smartphones can cause ADHD nor that reducing smartphone notifications can treat ADHD,” he said. “The findings simply suggest that our constant digital stimulation may be contributing to an increasingly problematic deficit of attention in modern society.”
The silver lining is that the problem can be turned off.
“Importantly, we found that people can reduce the harmful effects of overstimulation by smartphones simply by keeping their phones on silent and out of easy reach whenever possible, thus keeping notifications at bay,” Kushlev said.
His research colleagues at the University of British Columbia are Jason Proulx, a senior research assistant, and Elizabeth W. Dunn, an associate professor of psychology.
- See more at:

Friday, May 20, 2016

Gentler exercise for mind and body is best for sleep

The study focused on 72 people, ages 67 to 79, who reported poor sleep as well as declining mental sharpness. They were assigned at random to do either strenuous aerobic exercise or a gentler stretching routine, paired with either watching educational DVDs (followed by short quizzes) or engaging in more demanding computer-based brain training.Just as regular exercise has a host of health benefits for the body, staying mentally active appears to preserve memory and general sharpness. But for getting a good night’s sleep, light workouts for both body and brain may be best, according to a study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The most improvement in sleep came with doing one-hour stretching sessions three times per week paired with watching educational DVDs. This echoes other studies, which have found that gentle stretching and toning with tai chi, qigong (an exercise and breathing regimen similar to tai chi), and yoga improved sleep. The researchers couldn’t rule out that more frequent or more strenuous aerobics routines and mental training could match the sleep boost from the gentler regimens.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Higher cardio fitness may improve multitasking skills

Higher cardio fitness may improve multitasking skills

In the journals
A study published in the journal Frontiers in Aging and Neuroscience (Aug. 25, 2015) has found that fitness levels in older adults correlates with activation in areas in the brain’s frontal lobe responsible for executive function—mental skills used to manage time, plan and organize, and remember details. The researchers examined brain imaging and cardio fitness data from 128 adults ages 50 to 80. Cardio fitness level was determined by measuring maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max) while a person walked at increasing speed on a treadmill. Executive function skills were measured by how fast and accurately a person responded to computer stimuli like numbers and letters.
The results: People with a higher cardiorespiratory fitness level showed greater brain activation in the frontal lobe. They were also better at performing two simultaneous tasks compared with a single one. This is important since older adults have more difficulty processing multiple tasks, says the researchers. While this study found a link between good cardio health and better cognitive function, more research is needed to show you can improve your brain function by increasing your fitness.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Videogame addiction linked to ADHD

By KIM E. ANDREASSENPublished: 20.04.2016 (Last updated: 25.04.2016)

Young and single men are at risk of being addicted to video games. The addiction indicates an escape from ADHD and psychiatric disorder

“Video game addiction is more prevalent among younger men, and among those not being in a current relationship, than others,” says, Cecilie Schou Andreassen, doctor of psychology and clinical psychologist specialist at Department of Psychosocial Science, University of Bergen (UiB).
Schou Andreassen has carried out a study with more than 20 000 participants who answered questions related to videogame addiction. The study is published in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, of the American Psychological Association.
Escape from psychiatric disorders
The study showed that video game addiction appears to be associated with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression.

“Excessively engaging in gaming may function as an escape mechanism for, or coping with, underlying psychiatric disorders in attempt to alleviate unpleasant feelings, and to calm restless bodies”, Doctor Andreassen says. 

According to Doctor Andreassen, the large study shows some clear tendencies as to which people develop addictive use of social media.
“The study implies that younger with some of these characteristics could be targeted regarding preventing development of an unhealthy gaming pattern.”
Sex difference in addiction
The study also showed that addiction related to videogames and computer activities shows sex differences.
“Men seem generally more likely to become addicted to online gaming, gambling, and cyber-pornography, while women to social media, texting, and online shopping”, Schou Andreassen says.
Seven Warning Signs
The study uses seven criteria to identify video game addiction (developed by Lemmens et al., 2009), where gaming experiences last six months are scored on a scale from “never” to “very often”:
  • You think about playing a game all day long
  • You spend increasing amounts of time on games
  • You play games to forget about real life
  • Others have unsuccessfully tried to reduce your game use
  • You feel bad when you are unable to play
  • You have fights with others (e.g., family, friends) over your time spent on games
  • You neglect other important activities (e.g., school, work, sports) to play games
Scoring high on at least four of the seven items may suggest that you are addicted to video gaming associated with impaired health, work, school and/or social relations.
“However, most people have a relaxed relationship to video games and fairly good control,” Doctor Cecilie Schou Andreassen highlights.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

4 Ways to Overcome a Bad First Impression

4 Ways to Overcome a Bad First Impression

We’ve all been there — accidentally alienated a new coworker with a bad joke, underwhelmed the new boss by botching our first assignment, or had a client we didn’t just click with. The trouble is that initial impressions are hard to shake.
In a psychological phenomenon known as the “fundamental attribution error,” humans are quick to “essentialize” the behaviors of others. You might have simply been having a bad day, or you might have been off your game because of a recent breakup or death in the family, but your new colleague isn’t likely to extend that generous of an explanation. Instead, they’re far more likely to assume that your subpar performance is an essential trait — making it extremely challenging to overcome their negative perception. But, as I discuss in my book Reinventing You, it’s not impossible to change how others view you. Here are four ways you can begin to overturn their entrenched beliefs.
Surprise them. The reason people don’t often change their initial impressions is that our brain is optimized to conserve energy; if there’s not a compelling reason to re-evaluate something, then we won’t. So you need to manufacture a reason by surprising them. Your colleagues may have built up a certain, inaccurate impression of you — that you’re not leadership material because you’re too mousy and quiet, for instance.
You can’t expect to overturn that thinking with subtle gestures. You need a bolder strategy to force them to re-evaluate what they thought they knew about you. If you’ve developed a reputation for being quiet and never speaking up, it won’t suffice to talk once in a meeting. Instead, make a point of being the first person to speak, and making multiple comments. If your colleagues have to ask themselves, “What got into him?” then you’re on the right track in beginning to change their views.
Overcompensate over time. A forceful change in behavior may get your colleagues to take notice. But if you only do it once, they can write it off as an aberration: He must have had too much coffee that morning. Instead, keep up your new behavior over time, and recognize that in order to change perceptions, you’ll need to do it far longer than the original behavior for which you were pigeonholed.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Gotta Minute? Get a Good Workout

Gotta Minute? Get a Good Workout

Study found 60 seconds of intense exercise as effective as 45 minutes of moderate exertion

WEDNESDAY, April 27, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Couch potatoes, there are no more excuses.
New research from Canada contends that just one minute of high-intensity exercise can boost your health as much as 45 minutes of a moderate workout. That means you can't claim that you don't have enough time to get in shape.
"Most people cite 'lack of time' as the main reason for not being active," said study author Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. "Our study shows that an interval-based [intense] approach can be more efficient -- you can get health and fitness benefits comparable to the traditional approach, in less time."
The study included 27 inactive men who were randomly assigned to do either intense or moderate workouts three times a week for 12 weeks, or to a control group that did not exercise.
The intense exercise was so-called sprint interval training, which involved three 20-second "all out" sprints on exercise bikes. It also included a two-minute warmup, a three-minute cool-down, and two minutes of easy cycling for recovery between the intense sprints. Total time: 10 minutes per workout.
The men in the moderate workout group did 45 minutes of continuous cycling at a moderate pace, plus the same warmup and cool-down as those in the sprint interval group.
After 12 weeks, both exercise groups had similar measures of heart/lung fitness and insulin sensitivity, a measure of how the body regulates blood sugar.
Interval-based training "is a very time-efficient workout strategy. Brief bursts of intense exercise are remarkably effective," Gibala said in a university news release.
"The basic principles apply to many forms of exercise. Climbing a few flights of stairs on your lunch hour can provide a quick and effective workout. The health benefits are significant," he added.
The study findings were published online April 27 in the journal PLoS One

Monday, May 9, 2016

Gestational exposure to type of antidepressants associated with adolescent offspring depression

A study to be published in the May 2016 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) reports that use of certain antidepressants during pregnancy can result in offspring depression by early adolescence.

Using national register data from Finland, researchers found that children exposed to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during gestation had more chance of being diagnosed with depression after age 12, reaching a cumulative incidence of 8.2% by age 15. For children exposed to maternal psychiatric illness but no antidepressants, the incidence was 1.9%. Rates of anxiety, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnoses did not differ significantly between the two groups. Comparing SSRI-exposed children to children of mothers with neither antidepressant use nor psychiatric diagnosis, researchers found the rates were significantly elevated for each outcome.

Animal studies already demonstrated that exposure to SSRIs during early brain development can result in depression-like behavior in adolescence; this is the first study that follows children beyond childhood to monitor the development of depressive disorders, which typically emerge after puberty has started. The increasing rate of SSRI prescriptions to pregnant women since their introduction 30 years ago makes the study of affected children particularly urgent. Today 6% of pregnant women in the US and 4% in Finland are on SSRIs at some stage of pregnancy.

To investigate whether using SSRIs during pregnancy is associated with offspring psychiatric disorders, researchers from Columbia University, New York State Psychiatric Institute, and Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology joined forces with researchers from the University of Turku and Helsinki in Finland. They examined psychiatric diagnoses, including depression, anxiety, ASD, and ADHD, in the offspring of nearly 16,000 mothers who had used SSRIs during pregnancy between 1996 and 2010. Children in this cohort ranged in age from 0 to 15 years old. Because maternal psychiatric illness can affect offspring neurodevelopment in the absence of SSRIs, primary comparisons were made between offspring of the SSRI group and offspring of mothers with a psychiatric disorder diagnosis but no antidepressant use.

"The results are in line with studies in rodents, suggesting that SSRI use during pregnancy increases the risk of offspring depression,'' Dr. Heli Malm, the first author of the study, said. "However, the oldest subjects had only just entered the age of risk for depression, and we know that mood disorders typically emerge after the onset of puberty. Further research is therefore urgently needed to follow these children as they get older to substantiate our findings. Until confirmed, these findings must be balanced against the adverse consequences of untreated maternal depression. While some women with mild to moderate depression may do well coming off antidepressants during pregnancy, severe depression when left untreated can lead to serious consequences in the mother and can have direct and indirect adverse effects on the pregnancy, the fetus, and the child."
While it might seem reassuring that the results showed no elevated risk of ASD and ADHD for SSRI-exposed offspring, there may still be significant effects on offspring risk for depression. Dr. Andre Sourander, co-author of the study, added: "Further studies should determine whether the developing fetus is particularly sensitive to the effects of SSRIs in different trimesters, whether some medications may be safer than others for the fetus, and whether evidence-based psychotherapies could be better utilized to maximize maternal benefits while minimizing risk to the long-term health of the developing fetus."

Sunday, May 8, 2016

How To Master The Fine Art Of Small Talk

Move beyond the weather to make small talk less painful and more productive. Here are five things that great conversationalists know

Small talk gets a bad reputation. To avoid this allegedly meaningless drivel, people skip networking events. Or, almost as bad, they attend, but talk to the three people they already know.
This is shortsighted, says Debra Fine, author of The Fine Art of Small Talk. "Small talk is the appetizer for any relationship," she says, and people like to do business with those with whom they’ve established common ground. "A good networker is looking to foster relationships and build a community never knowing how that contact can help now or in the future. My motto is ‘every conversation is an opportunity for success.’" Here’s how to do small talk better:

While you can hope for the best, don’t expect too much from any given chat. If you come to cocktail hour hoping for nothing more than a good restaurant or book recommendation, you can relax and enjoy yourself, and be pleasantly surprised by anything else that happens. Relaxed people are, incidentally, more enjoyable for others to be around too.
"I never approach a meeting, an industry function, or a networking event without at least three things to talk about," says Fine. "When is the worst time to come up with something to talk about? When you have nothing to talk about!" In particular, she practices a solid answer to "How are you?" or "How are things?" so she doesn’t respond with an "unhelpful one word answer" that forces a conversation partner to do much of the work.
While questions are generally good, leading with one carries risk. You might ask about the one topic the person doesn’t want to cover: "How’s work?" results in "They just announced huge layoffs" or, more likely, an evasive answer and awkward silence. Some people might view asking a direct question at the start of a conversation as rude.
Instead, volunteer something positive about a topic that’s potentially common ground, so the person can choose to reciprocate. "Our host said she just got back from California" lets the person talk about the host, vacations, business she’s done in California, a time she visited California, etc.
Most people like to talk about themselves, so asking questions is a good way to follow up once you’ve established a safe topic. Avoid close-ended questions ("Did you go on Space Mountain?" could be answered "No") and instead ask about favorite memories. That lets people tell their best stories.
If you’re in a conversation with someone who’s particularly hard to engage, try the old interview trick of giving people two options: "Did you rent a car in Amsterdam or take the train?" If one option is correct, people will elaborate on it ("We rented a car, but we had to special order a minivan. Hertz didn’t just have one at the airport...") or if neither is, people are quick to correct a faulty impression ("Actually, we traveled the whole country by bicycle"). The correction then offers multiple follow-on possibilities.
You can extricate yourself ("I need to go say hello to my old client") or you can introduce your conversation partner to someone ("Would you like to meet her?") but there may be nowhere else to go. So good conversationalists also know how to shift. If she’s been talking about work, Fine likes to ask "What keeps you busy outside of work?"
If you’ve established general biographical info, she recommends letting the person show you her best self with "What has the highlight of your year been so far?" Who knows, it might be a highlight you’re interested too, and the person goes from small talk partner to honest-to-goodness friend.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Adding These Nutraceuticals May Improve Antidepressant Therapy

Findings from a new study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry suggest that some nutritional supplements can enhance the efficacy of antidepressants for patients with depression.
The use of nutraceuticals as adjunctive therapy can potentially impact some neurochemical pathways involved in depression. Though various studies have been conducted regarding this topic, no meta-analysis has been conducted to date. Study authors from the University of Melbourne and Harvard University performed a systematic search up to December 2015 for clinical trials using adjunctive nutrients for depression. They used a random-effects model to analyze the standard mean difference between treatment vs. placebo in the change from baseline to endpoint. 
The data showed mainly favorable results for similar studies that evaluated S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), methylfolate, omega-3 (mainly EPA or ethyl-EPA), and vitamin D. Some isolated studies demonstrated positive results for creatine, folic acid, and an amino acid combination. Researchers found nonsignificant results for inositol and mixed results for zinc, colic acid, vitamin C, and tryptophan. 
A meta-analysis that compared omega-3 to placebo indicated a significant and moderate-to-strong effect in favor of omega-3. In contrast, a meta-analysis comparing folic acid to placebo showed a nonsignificant difference between the two agents. Jerome Sarris, PhD, MHSc, head of the ARCADIA Mental Health Research Group, added, "Medical practitioners are aware of the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, but are probably unaware that one can combine them with antidepressant medication for a potentially better outcome."
Apart from minor gastrointestinal disturbances, no major adverse effects were documented in the studies. 

The available evidence supports adjunctive use of SAMe, methylfolate, omega-3, and vitamin D with antidepressants to decrease depressive symptoms, the authors concluded.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Early Emotional Support May Help Kids Manage Feelings Later

By Kathleen Doheny

HealthDay Reporter
TUESDAY, April 26, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Preschoolers given higher levels of emotional support from moms, dads or other caregivers tend to have better emotional health during their childhood and teen years, a new study suggests.
The researchers saw increased growth in a brain region known as the hippocampus in children who were highly supported at preschool age. The hippocampus is involved in emotion, learning and memory formation. Reductions in hippocampus volume have been linked with worse emotional health and unhealthy coping, the study authors said.
“Support during the preschool period seems critical to healthy brain development, and healthy brain development is important for healthy emotional functioning,” said study leader Dr. Joan Luby. She’s a professor of child psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis.
The researchers reported that they didn’t see changes in the volume of the hippocampus based on parental support when the children reached school age.
Because of the study’s design, Luby said, it can’t prove cause and effect. And, she added, a child who has an unsupportive parent isn’t doomed to be emotionally unhealthy if they get the same nurturing and support from another caregiver, such as a grandparent.
Previous research had already shown that maternal support has a powerful effect on the development of the hippocampus. However, less is known about how caregiving at young ages affects the development of the brain region and emotional health later in life, Luby said.
“This study builds on that [previous research] and shows that the trajectory of growth of the hippocampus is impacted by the early experience of maternal support,” she explained.
Most of the caregivers in the new study were women. But Luby believes the findings would apply to men and other caregivers.
For the study, Luby’s team looked at the long-term effects of maternal support on brain development and emotional management in 127 children. The children all began the study as preschoolers.
Independent raters who didn’t know the children or the caregivers observed them in a lab under a stressful situation, with the child in arm’s reach of a gift he or she wasn’t allowed to open. The raters noted the number of supportive behaviors the caregiver demonstrated during the 8 minutes the child was told to wait before opening the gift.
The researchers conducted three brain wave scans over the course of the study, which followed the children through their early teen years.
“Children of mothers who have more supportive behavior, compared to those who have less supportive behavior, had hippocampal growth volume that was twice as fast,” Luby said.
In the gift scenario in the study, a supportive mother would acknowledge her child’s impatience and gently tell the child that sometimes he or she must wait to do something, Luby said. A mother rated as less supportive would either ignore the child or speak harshly, she explained.
The study findings are certainly plausible, said Brandon Korman, chief of neuropsychology at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, who reviewed the study findings. “I think it fits well with what we know about brain development and the effect of the environment on brain development,” he said.
In clinical practice, Korman said, he definitely sees a link between how parents respond and support their child and the child’s behavior. He suggests that parents “strike a balance between being supportive and being a good disciplinarian.”
For people who grew up without good support, Korman has some reassurance.
“What happens during early childhood is obviously significant in shaping who you are, but it doesn’t mean you are doomed [if you did not have the support],” Korman said. If an adult now feels that way, he said, “the best thing they could do is enroll in therapy to explore that.”
Parents who want to learn to be supportive can participate in special programs that focus on that issue, Luby said. These widely available programs are known as parent-child interaction therapies and by other names, she said.

The study was published online April 25 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Be More Mindful During Your Work Day

  • APRIL 29, 2016
  • By Dana Rousmaniere

Many of us operate on autopilot at work, but the ability to maintain focus and concentration is a crucial skill. The good news is you can build this skill by incorporating mindfulness exercises into your day. When you wake up, spend two minutes in bed simply noticing your breath. Resist the urge to check email first thing in the morning, which leads to an onslaught of distractions. When you get to the office, take 10 minutes at your desk or in your car to close your eyes, relax, sit upright, and focus on your breath. Set a timer to remind yourself to do a one-minute mindfulness exercise every hour, which will keep you from resorting to autopilot. On your way to meetings, remember to return to your breath. Finally, on your commute home, turn off your phone, shut off the radio, and simply be, so you arrive home fully present.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Be More Mindful During Your Work Day

If you were to be totally honest, would you say that you really and truly like yourself? Or are you constantly performing makeovers on your appearance, personality, and abilities? When you look in the mirror, do you see imperfections in your skin and hair and wish you could make them go away? Do you feel the same way about with your personality? Every time you worry instead of relaxing before a social event, do you want to kick yourself for being so anxious?
It’s all too easy to become a mental makeover fanatic, especially when reality shows are doing just that to everything from fashion to housing. You can get to the point where you see yourself not as you truly are, but only as you wish you could be. To paraphrase Ophelia from Hamlet, who said, “We know what we are, but know not what we may be": "We know what we are, and we wish we weren’t this way.”
The basis for a positive sense of self-esteem is that you accept yourself as you are, not as you “may” be. This doesn’t mean that you’re never self-critical or that you should never change, but that you’re able to live with being flawed and with your own approach to trying to make yourself a bit less so.
The idea of self-acceptance is gaining ground in the psychological literature as an important contributor to positive mental states such as peace of mind, greater self-understanding, and the ability to empathize with others. Carl Rogers wrote back in the 1950s and 60s about the quality of unconditional positive regard and its importance in personality development. According to Rogers, when parents place “conditions of worth” on young children, they cause their offspring to grow up to be self-doubters and critics. If you feel that your parents will love you only when you perform up to their standards, you’ll develop an inner voice that constantly compares you to how you “should” be.
In fact, a psychologists writing from several vantage points discuss the importance of being able to view yourself without feeling undue anxiety about how you may be falling short of some unrealistic ideal self. Psychologists today are translating these theories into measures of self-acceptance that make it possible to see just how hard you tend to come down on yourself.
Before getting to this measure, and some of the research that backs it up, a word of caution: If you get down on yourself for getting down on yourself, you’ll only make things worse. Seeing how self-accepting you are, or are not, can be a liberating process if you look for guideposts along the way that allow you to shake off those inner, critical voices.
Louisiana Tech University psychologists Güler Boyraz and Brandon Waits tested the idea that “individuals with high levels of self-acceptance may be less likely to focus and ruminate on negative aspects of the self and more likely to engage in intellectual self-focus” (p. 85). In other words, if you accept yourself, you’ll be less likely to mull over your failings and more likely to see yourself in a realistic light. You don’t become completely oblivious to your shortcomings, but you’re less likely to view them as fatal flaws.
To test this idea, Boyraz and Waits conducted a two-part study in which, in the first stage, they measured the tendency of undergraduate participants to think about (reflect on), and worry about (ruminate over) their behavior. They then related these to changes at the second stage in the qualities of self-acceptance and empathy. As they hypothesized, people who reflected on their behavior—but didn’t ruminate—had higher levels of self-acceptance; self-acceptance, in turn, predicted higher levels of reflection. Surprisingly, the ruminators tended to be more empathic than the authors expected: It’s possible that the more you ponder your own shortcomings, the more likely you’ll be able to forgive them in others.
Returning to the idea of self-acceptance, then, the Boyraz and Waits study suggests that taking in stride your positive and negative qualities can be beneficial to mental health and your peace of mind.
Now let’s examine those 10 ways you can become a self-liker rather than a self-critic:
  1. Don’t be afraid to confront your failings. The Boyraz and Waits study showed that being able to think about your weaknesses doesn’t condemn you to a life of self-hatred.
  2. Step back and enjoy your accomplishments. When you’ve done something well, don’t be afraid to admit that you succeeded. It doesn’t have to be something earth-shattering: Having cooked a good meal, eat it with pleasure and allow any compliments from those you cooked for to sink in.
  3. Learn to look at the things you like about yourself in the mirror. Sure, your makeup isn’t perfect and that rash on your chin makes it look a little red. But what about the great job you did on your hair? If all else fails, find a mirror with better lighting than the bright fluorescents in your office.
  4. Go on a date with yourself. On the date, spend some time alone devoted to thinking about your experiences: Enjoy a movie or concert, or a meal at your favorite restaurant while you spend time reflecting on what’s going on around you. You can even laugh at your own jokes.
  5. Strive to be a better person, but don’t expect changes to happen all at once. You might be completely unhappy with your weight and can’t stand the thought that the pounds aren’t melting off faster. Give yourself a realistic timeline and measure yourself against smaller, achievable goals.
  6. Spend a weekend day or evening without worrying about how you look. Try a makeup-free Sunday or a grubby t-shirt Tuesday night. See what it’s like to be yourself without being concerned about impressing anyone else.
  7. Think about the past, but don’t let yourself be overwhelmed with regret. You wish like anything that you could turn back the clock and not have said the hurtful thing you said to your friend. Once you've uttered those words, though, you can't unsay them. However, you may have learned something useful about yourself in the process and certainly can make every effort to apologize.
  8. Understand that no one is perfect. When you’re in low self-acceptance mode, you believe that everyone is better than you. It’s possible that others are better than you in certain ways, but that doesn’t mean you’re any less of a person yourself. Instead of comparing yourself negatively, accept that fact, and then see if you can learn from it.
  9. Enjoy your personality, foibles and all. So you’re a little bit too meticulous and want everything to be perfect. When things don’t work out as you wish and you start to berate your weaknesses, stop and do a reality check. So you spilled coffee all over your brand-new tablecloth. OK, maybe you’re a bit clumsy. That doesn’t mean you’re worthless.
  10. Like “most” of yourself as much as you can. You’re may not reach 100% self-satisfaction, but maybe you can get to 75 or 80%. In the measure of self-acceptance that the Louisiana Tech team used, getting high scores meant saying you were happy with “most” of your personality traits.

Copyright Susan Krauss Whitbourne 2016