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1. Facebook Activity May Reveal Clues To Mental Illness

A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri (MU) and published in the journal Psychiatry Research, has revealed that social media profiles can provide insight into the mental health of patients.

Social networking sites, like Facebook, are becoming increasingly popular and are becoming a primary method for communication and socialization. Although it has been established that there is increased use by those on the schizophrenia-spectrum, few details are known to what depth.

Study leader Elizabeth Martin, doctoral student in MU’s psychological science department in the College of Arts and Science, said: “Therapists could possibly use social media activity to create a more complete clinical picture of a patient. The beauty of social media activity as a tool in psychological diagnosis is that it removes some of the problems associated with patients’ self-reporting.”

For example, questionnaires often depend on a person’s memory, which may or may not be accurate. By asking patients to share their Facebook activity, we were able to see how they expressed themselves naturally. Even the parts of their Facebook activities that they chose to conceal exposed information about their psychological state.

Martin and her team asked a group of volunteers to print their Facebook activity and linked aspects of their activity with the level to which these people showed schizotypy, an assortment of symptoms including social withdrawal to unusual beliefs.

As expected, several participants showed signs of the schizotypy condition called social anhedonia – the inability to encounter happiness from normally enjoyable activities, such as interacting and talking to peers.

These people with social anhedonia were more likely to:

have fewer friends on Facebook communicate less frequently share fewer pictures have a longer Facebook profile

Social anhedonia was also significantly linked to extraversion. Additionally, extraversion was a predictor of the number of photos and friends, and length of time since last communicating with a friend.

Some study volunteers hid important parts of their Facebook profiles before giving their activity to the researchers. These people also showed schizotypy symptoms, called perceptual aberrations – irregular experiences of one’s magical ideation and senses – also known as the belief that experiences with no real cause-and-effect are distantly linked.

Concealing Facebook activity was also linked to higher levels of paranoia. (Source: Medical News Today)

2. People Having Stroke Should Get Therapy Within 60 Minutes of Hospital Arrival

People having an ischemic stroke should receive clot-dissolving therapy — if appropriate — within 60 minutes of arriving at the hospital, according to new American Stroke Association guidelines published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

Ischemic stroke, which accounts for nine in 10 strokes, is caused by a blood clot in the arteries leading to the brain. Calling 9-1-1 immediately after recognizing any of the warning signs of stroke — and getting to a stroke center as fast as possible — are still the most important steps for optimal stroke care.

During an acute stroke, physicians must quickly evaluate and diagnose the patient as soon as possible to determine if patients are eligible to receive the clot-dissolving drug recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which must be given 4.5 hours within hours of symptom onset. The goal is to minimize “door to needle” time which provides the patient with the best opportunity for benefit from the treatment.

“TPA can now be considered for a larger group of patients, including some who present up to 4.5 hours from stroke onset,” said Edward Jauch, M.D., lead author of the guidelines and director of the Division of Emergency Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina.

The new guidelines recommend integrating regional networks of comprehensive stroke centers (which offer 24/7, highly specialized treatment for all types of stroke); primary stroke centers (which provide 24/7 specialized care mainly for ischemic stroke); and acute stroke-ready hospitals (which can evaluate and treat most strokes but lack highly specialized capabilities), and community hospitals.

“This is the first time we’ve brought these healthcare elements together –, including community hospitals which may lack onsite stroke expertise, which reflects the emerging role of telemedicine in these hospitals,” Jauch said.

Among other major revisions to the guidelines, if feasible, patients should be rapidly transferred to the closest available certified primary care stroke center or comprehensive stroke center, which might involve air medical transport. “However, for patients brought to hospitals without specialized stroke expertise, telemedicine can provide real-time access to expertise,” Jauch said. “If such a hospital partners with a primary or comprehensive stroke center and uses telemedicine, early treatment decisions can be made for patients. If the patient had to be transferred before administering some therapies, it would be too late.”

Other key recommendations in the new guidelines include:

Face drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb?

Arm weakness: Is one arm weak or numb?

Speech difficulty: Is speech slurred, are you unable to speak, or are you hard to understand?

Time to call 9-1-1: If you have any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get to the hospital immediately. (Source: Science Daily)

3. Researcher Uncovers Potential Cause, Biomarker for Autism and Proposes Study to Investigate Theory

A New York-based physician-researcher from Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, best known for his research into fertility and twinning, has uncovered a potential connection between autism and a specific growth protein that could eventually be used as a way to predict an infant’s propensity to later develop the disease.

The protein, called insulin-like growth factor (IGF), is especially involved in the normal growth and development of babies’ brain cells. Based on findings of prior published studies, Touro researcher Gary Steinman, MD, PhD, proposes that depressed levels of this protein in the blood of newborns could potentially serve as a biomarker for the later development of autism. However, this connection, described below in greater detail, has never been directly studied. Steinman presents his exciting theory in the journal Medical Hypotheses.

IGF stimulates special cells in the brain to provide an essential insulating material, called myelin, around the developing nerves that is needed to efficiently transmit important messages about everything the brain controls — from physical functions such as movement to mental functions such as sensory perception, thinking and emotions. In the developing fetal and pediatric brain, myelin is also important for nerve fibers in one area of the brain to form proper pathways to other regions, allowing the body to hone functions over time. Insufficient IGF results in insufficient insulating material, as has been seen in brain biopsies of autistic individuals, and may impede proper pathway development. Steinman is proposing that this potential relationship between neonatal IGF levels and autism be directly studied.

In the United States, autism is currently reported in 1 in 88 live births — about 125 new cases every day — and it is four times more common in boys than in girls. “Autism is on the rise, especially in the last two decades — either because of environmental factors, expanded diagnostic criteria, or both. Yet almost nothing is currently known about the predisposing molecular and histological changes that differentiate a newborn destined to be neurologically normal from an autistic one,” said Steinman.

Because no effective treatment or prevention for autism exists, research examining Steinman’s idea is critical, as it may hold the key to understanding the cause of this often devastating illness. In his article, Steinman proposes a study to investigate this hypothesis, and if this study supports his theory that identification of reduced IGF at birth is later followed by the appearance of autistic characteristics, then the subsequent development of a simple biomarker blood test is equally critical. (Source: Science Daily)

4. New Report Suggests ‘Moral Realism’ May Lead To Better Moral Behavior

Getting people to think about morality as a matter of objective facts rather than subjective preferences may lead to improved moral behavior, Boston College researchers report in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

In two experiments, one conducted in-person and the other online, participants were primed to consider a belief in either moral realism (the notion that morals are like facts) or moral antirealism (the belief that morals reflect people’s preferences) during a solicitation for a charitable donation. In both experiments, those primed with moral realism pledged to give more money to the charity than those primed with antirealism or those not primed at all.

“There is significant debate about whether morals are processed more like objective facts, like mathematical truths, or more like subjective preferences similar to whether vanilla or chocolate tastes better,” said lead researcher Liane Young, assistant professor of psychology at Boston College. “We wanted to explore the impact of these different meta-ethical views on actual behavior.”

Ideas have previously been advanced on the subject, but Young and her former research assistant A.J. Durwin, now a law student at Hofstra University, are the first to directly investigate the question.

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