Fast-Paced Cartoons May Hurt Kids' Attention, Memory

Fast-Paced Cartoons May Hurt Kids' Attention, MemoryBy Kathleen DohenyWebMD Health NewsFrom the article:"The fast-paced shows may have a negative impact, Lillard says, because of the rapid presentation of the events. These engage the senses rather than the brain areas engaged in memory, controlling inhibition, and problem solving, she says.When a child sees a cartoon character that jumps from one activity to another, much faster than in real life, she says, 'they become neurologically exhausted and it inhibits the ability to concentrate.'"

All in the ADHD family: Diagnosis in kids can spotlight parents' own condition

“All in the ADHD family: Diagnosis in Kids can Spotlight Parents' own Condition”NBC News, Rock Center11 min, 55 secThis video profiles two people who were not diagnosed with ADHD until adulthood. It is not uncommon for someone to first consider that they may have ADHD after one of their children has been diagnosed.NBC's Kate Snow also talks to a woman who conducted a study where she examined a cohort of children diagnosed with ADHD and then followed up with them 33 years later.In addition, she speaks with a researcher about the differences that have been found between ADHD and non-ADHD adults in brain neuroimaging studies.

And the Secret to Happiness Is…

CNN: “And the Secret to Happiness Is…”by Sanjay Gupta, MD2 min, 0 secDr. Gupta makes a number of interesting points in this video.

  • Happiness can help you live a longer and happier life.*
  • Much of our happiness is related to our social connections. So having no social connections is correlated with less happiness and a shorter lifespan.
  • Telomeres are the caps on our DNA chromosomes that measure our cellular age. The older we get, the shorter the telomeres. Someone without any close social ties will have shorter telomeres than someone of the same age with at least one close friend.
  • People who tend to have a lot of negative thoughts are three times as likely to develop health problems as they age. But research indicates that even just pretending to be an optimist can help reverse this trend. In addition, changing the habitual way we think is one of the core skills that you develop in cognitive behavior therapy.

* Those of you familiar with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy will understand that happiness is not as straightforward of a concept as it may seem and being fixated on being happy actually make you miserable. But that's a whole other discussion. But a very interesting topic. If you'd like to read more you can check out Russ Harris's book "The Happiness Trap."

A Little Meditation Goes a Long Way

"A Little Meditation Goes a Long Way: A new study offers the strongest evidence to date that meditation can change the structure of your brain"By Jason Marsh, February 9, 2011, as published online in the "Greater Good" newsletter through the University of California, Berkeley.This article describes the results of a neuroimaging study that looked at participants of the 8 week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. Participants reported meditating for 30 min. per day on average. Neuroimaging found that the amount of gray matter thickened after 8 weeks of meditating in a number of regions including the hippocampus (involved in memory, learning, and emotion regulation), the temporo-parietal junction and posterior cingulate cortex (involved in empathy), and the cerebellum (which also plays a role in emotion regulation).The article also points out that exercise can also increase the volume of the hippocampus. They reference a study that was done that compared two groups of 60-somethings. One group walked around the track three times per week for a year and the other group was less physically active. In the walking group the hippocampus increased in volume and in the non-walking group it became smaller.Walking mediation anyone?

CNN: How Your Smart Phone Affects Your Sleep

CNN: “How Your Smart Phone Affects Your Sleep”By Sanjay Gupta, MD1 min, 31 secDr. Gupta explains in this video how using our smart phones before bed can hurt our chances of a good night’s sleep. He says that looking at emails or other content on our phones can "take our brains from 0 to 60" (in terms of arousal) very quickly. In addition, the light from the phone (and other electronics) can disrupt our circadian rhythms. The light can inhibit the production of melatonin, a chemical in the body that's involved in helping us fall asleep. The vast majority of the ADHD clients I work with have problems with regulating sleep and oversleeping or insomnia also is frequently a symptom of depression or anxiety.

Your Brain on Multitasking

CNN: "Your Brain on Multitasking"By Sanjay Gupta, MD2 min, 1 sec.Dr. Gupta explains in this video why effective multitasking is a myth for the vast majority of us. When you are working on activity A and then begin to work on activity B, attention is diverted away from activity A to activity B (so you are not doing both at once), slowing down your speed and quality on both tasks. Even though you can switch very quickly from one to the other, your bandwidth decreases so you're doing the two tasks less effectively than if you were only focusing on one at a time. He references a study that shows that when you look at the brain activity of someone who is driving, adding paying attention to something you are listing to will decrease the bandwidth for driving by 37%.He acknowledges that 2% of the population are genetically gifted and able to multitask. But if you think you're one of them, you're probably wrong. Because he also points out that people who think they're the best at multitasking actually are usually the worst.

ADHD Diagnosis Can Double Risk of Premature Death, Researchers Say

While the statistic in the headline and in the article itself are certainly alarming, I think the most important thing to take away from it is that ADHD is a real condition with very real consequences, especially when left untreated. However, proper treatment can make a big difference with what happens on an individual level.As the article goes on to say, "Although talk of premature death will worry parents and patients, they can seek solace in knowing the absolute risk of premature death at an individual level is low and can be greatly reduced with treatment."It’s also worth noting that more than more than half of adults with ADHD also have a second co-occurring condition, such as anxiety, depression, or substance abuse. These carry their own risk factors and are important to treat as well. For many, an integrative approach including medication, cognitive behavior therapy, exercise, nutrition, etc, works best.

Students do worse on quizzes when they use keyboards in class

"To Remember a Lecture Better, Take Notes by Hand: Students do worse on quizzes when they use keyboards in class."Written by Robinson Meyer for The Atlantic, May 1 2014.It seems the pen is mightier than the keyboard. At least when it comes to taking notes. As the article explains, “A new study—conducted by Mueller and Oppenheimer—finds that people remember lectures better when they’ve taken handwritten notes, rather than typed ones."They point out that laptop notetakers tend to take verbatim notes, whereas with handwritten notes it's almost impossible to write down everything that's said. So in one phase of the study they warned subjects in advance, explicitly telling them not to take verbatim notes because it may hinder recall. And guess what?"Knowing how and why typed notes can be bad doesn't seem to improve their quality. Even if you warn laptop-notetakers ahead of time, it doesn't make a difference. For some tasks, it seems, handwriting’s just better."And what happens if you let people study from their typed notes before quizzing them?"If someone took verbatim notes on their laptop, then studying seemed more likely to hinder their performance on the quiz."Many of the patients I work with find that handwriting notes during meetings (including therapy sessions) or classes also helps them maintain focus in addition to improving recall.If you would like to read more about the study, you can read about it in The Atlantic by clicking here.

NY Times: A Natural Fix for ADHD

NYT_LogoA Natural Fix for A.D.H.D.By Richard A. FriedmanPrinted in the New York Times Oct. 31, 2014This recent article from the New York Times talks about possible reasons why ADHD is such a common diagnosis (affecting 11% of American children) and how important choosing the right career is to help reduce the impact ADHD has on one's life (and even using some of the symptoms to their advantage).A few interesting quotes from the article include:

  • "...people with A.D.H.D are walking around with reward circuits that are less sensitive at baseline than those of the rest of us. Having a sluggish reward circuit makes normally interesting activities seem dull and would explain, in part, why people with A.D.H.D. find repetitive and routine tasks unrewarding and even painfully boring."
  • “Consider that humans evolved over millions of years as nomadic hunter-gatherers. It was not until we invented agriculture, about 10,000 years ago, that we settled down and started living more sedentary — and boring — lives. As hunters, we had to adapt to an ever-changing environment where the dangers were as unpredictable as our next meal. In such a context, having a rapidly shifting but intense attention span and a taste for novelty would have proved highly advantageous in locating and securing rewards — like a mate and a nice chunk of mastodon.”

There is a lot of good information in the article and it is definitely worth a read.