Getting plenty of sleep just became even more important.
- A new study finds that people without sleep fare better in learning what to fear and not fear than those getting only some sleep.
- Test subjects learned to associate colors with electric shocks, but only some unlearned it.
- The findings could be used to help create new treatments for those at risk of PTSD or anxiety.
Nothing quite like a full night’s rest<p> The <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2451902220302822?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">study</a>, titled "Partial and Total Sleep Deprivation Interferes with Neural Correlates of Consolidation of Fear Extinction Memory," was published by a team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Harvard Medical School and can be found in the journal <a href="https://www.journals.elsevier.com/biological-psychiatry-cognitive-neuroscience-and-neuroimaging" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging</a>.</p><p>The researchers split 150 test subjects into three groups. The first got a full night's sleep, the second was "sleep-restricted" to a few hours' rest at the beginning of the night, and the third was utterly sleep deprived. Starting the next morning, they were all subjected to "fear conditioning" and "fear extinction." <br> <br> The conditioning involved participants seeing one of three colors on a screen, two of which were paired with a mild electric shock. The idea being that this teaches a person to begin to develop a fear of that color. Later, the subjects underwent "fear extinction," which had them viewing one of the colors again, but without the shocks. This step is intended to teach subjects that there is no longer a reason to fear that image and that it is now "safe."<br> <br> Later that evening, the test subjects viewed the colors again while having their brains scanned. This allowed the scientists to see if their brains were reacting to the colors with fear despite having "learned" that electric shocks were no longer a threat. <br> <br> Curiously, the brains of those getting no sleep resembled those of the people who enjoyed a full night's rest twelve hours later in that the fear response was absent. Those getting only a few hours of sleep showed signs of fear in their brain activity. This suggests that getting only a little rest might be <em>worse</em> than getting none at all, at least when it comes to learning and unlearning fear responses. </p><p>Brain activity recorded during the tasks painted a similar picture. Those who got a full night's sleep had more activity in the prefrontal cortex, an area tied to emotional regulation. In comparison, those getting only half a night's rest saw more activity in the regions associated with fear. Those getting no sleep had less activity in the fear areas overall. </p><p>The research team suggests that restricted sleeping may lead to a severe reduction in the time we spend in the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapid_eye_movement_sleep" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Rapid Eye Movement</a> (REM) phase of sleep. While best known for being the part of the night when we dream, it is also when memories are consolidated. REM tends to occur at the end of 1.5-2 hour periods during sleep. </p>
How can we use this information?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/1Y-qLKZWyDs" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> This study may help explain why people in high-stress jobs with short sleep schedules, such as emergency response workers, medical professionals, or soldiers, can leave people even more anxious or shell shocked.<br> </p><p>Conceivably, this could be used to help develop new treatments for these conditions. In the meantime, more research is needed before you decide to stay up for a week to avoid developing a phobia. </p>
A recent NIHR report found that students with previously low connectedness scores saw improvement in well-being and eased anxiety.
- With coronavirus resurging in Europe and the United States, parents are worried about their children's well-being and mental health.
- A report from the U.K.'s NIHR extends some hope; it found that students' mental health is improving while remote learning.
- Parents will continue play an important role in supporting their children's mental health.
Shining under pressure<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc2NDM5Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1OTIyMjQ2NX0.3nKlCkjZgn6V4cDEtcDUklSt69Hg6QiB7c_GUF2H-6w/img.jpg?width=980" id="27e7e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7b1b4ab8639aa220da628503c258310d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
U.K. showed a reduction of at-risk depression scores during the pandemic lockdown.
Credit: NIHR<p>"<a href="https://sphr.nihr.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Young-Peoples-Mental-Health-during-the-COVID-19-Pandemic-Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Young People's Mental Health during the COVID-19 Pandemic</a>" report surveyed more than 1,000 Year 9 students (ages 13 to 14) in the United Kingdom. This ongoing study aims to chronicle the relationship between social media use and adolescents' mental health. Because the study participants took the initial survey in October 2019, researchers were able to compare the students' pre-pandemic baseline with their responses several months into lockdown. (Schools closed in the U.K. in mid-March; follow-up surveys were completed in April and May.)</p><p>The researchers discovered that mental health among the U.K.'s adolescents has, surprisingly, improved during these trying times. Although 90 percent of students agreed that COVID-19 is a serious issue, their responses indicated an overall decrease in their risk of anxiety, an increase in their well-being, and no major changes to their risk of depression.</p><p>The most improvement was seen in students struggling with poor mental health. Students with low well-being scores in October last year showed a 10-point gain on the Warwick-Edinburgh Wellbeing Scale; meanwhile, students with previously average-to-high well-being scores showed no significant change. Students at risk of anxiety and depression also showed small advances in their Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale scores. The only group showing a heightened risk of depression were girls, and the difference was slight.</p><p>What caused this mental uplift among U.K. youth? While the study does not attempt to answer that question, the researchers speculate it may be "due to the removal of stressors within the school environment, such as pressure of academic work, and challenging peer relationships including bullying." </p><p>Another possibility is that this cohort's pandemic stressors are more externally focused. They cited their top three concerns as worrying their friends or family would catch the disease, worrying over friends and family's mental health, and worrying about missed school. Far fewer were anxious about catching the disease or the lockdown's effect on their friendships, job prospects, or the larger economy.</p>
Maintaining critical connections<p>The researchers asked about students' connectedness with school, peers, and family, too. Students reported an increased connection with school and no change in their relationships with friends and family. Those with the lowest connectedness scores in the baseline survey again saw the greatest gains in well-being scores and anxiety reduction scores. And, of course, social media use has supersized.</p><p>The researchers write, "As schools fully re-open, it is important to consider ways to prevent a rise in anxiety back to pre-pandemic levels."</p><p>There are limitations to the study, however, and we should be careful not to extrapolate these data too broadly. Younger children, the researchers note, do not have the same level of access to social media as their older peers nor are their vital social interactions as easily digitized. The playground cannot be translated into text and emojis with the same fidelity as the lunchroom clump. As a consequence, younger children may be experiencing a very different pandemic. That may also be true for young people undergoing transitional periods in their life.</p><p>Nor did the researchers see the same improvements in vulnerable student populations, such as LGBTQ teens and those with disabilities. These students reported higher anxiety and depression scores pre-pandemic and did not see the same improvements in the pandemic follow-up survey. This outcome suggested to the researchers that these students continued to experience stressors even when not attending school physically.</p><p>Finally, there's no indication that teens in other countries will face the pandemic the same. In countries with weaker social safety nets, such as the U.S., students may be far more worried about the virus's impact on their health and future prospects.</p>
Love in the time of COVID<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e79f38ede41f077864502fed9c56854e"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_oaTmbdv4Ps?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The National Institute for Health Research's report showing young teens are more resilient than adults may give them credit, but it bases its findings on student responses from mere months into the pandemic. Unfortunately, we won't know how remote education and prolonged shutdowns will affect them until they've been experienced. This reality means parents still play a critical role in supporting their children's mental health.</p><p>Parents looking for strategies can find resources at <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/parental-resource-kit/adolescence.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Centers for Disease Control</a>, <a href="https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/staying-home-during-covid19-help-teens-cope" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Johns Hopkins Children's Center</a>, and other health institute websites. In general, experts recommend keeping adolescents on a routine that supports learning, exercise, and social connection. This schedule should lead them to accomplish goals, partake in their interests, and engage with social activities—even if those social engagements must be taken online.</p><p>Yes, screen time will increase but parents need to remember that <a href="https://bigthink.com/personal-growth/screen-time-for-kids" target="_self">not all screen time is created equal</a>. There's a difference between screen time dedicated to, say, playing board games with friends versus mindlessly wandering the social media wastes. Parents will still need to incorporate boundaries and converse regularly with teens on what information they are receiving about coronavirus and the pandemic.</p><p>As Nilu Rahman, Johns Hopkins Children's Center senior child life specialist, said: "Teens have great access to the internet and some of what they're reading about the coronavirus and the pandemic might be scaring them, even if they don't say so." Rahman added that "parents should make sure kids are not going down rabbit holes and getting confused or frightened by false information."</p><p>Parents should also remain alert for changes in behavior, as these may signal boosted stress or other underlying mental health concerns. Rahman recommends parents look out for extreme eating habits, changes in sleep patterns, signs of self-harm, increased isolation, or their children not enjoying their favorite hobbies and past times.</p><p>"Parents know their children best," she says, "so if something seems off about their teen, they should trust their instinct and find out what's going on, especially if the child has a history of depression or anxiety."</p>
A study looks at the ingredients of a good scare.
Catching fear in a bottle<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDYyNzg1Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyOTQwMTcyMn0.WtpJ1E_dhK2o09fBpKARynj4_p5NXeklgsXsbd7xr9w/img.jpg?width=980" id="8ff51" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f10dd9188b173f4a36e85e9325507c6b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: Photo Boards/Unsplash<p>Previous studies have tracked physiological signs of fear arousal, but none have established a one-to-one correlation between that arousal and specific, actual fear events.</p><p>Andersen says that much of the research has been conducted in lab settings with weak fear stimuli, observing subjects as they experience things like scary videos. Scares in these situations tend to be weak and difficult to measure. Even harder to track in these situations is the link between enjoyment and fear. </p>
Eyes everywhere<iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/109695164" width="100%" height="480" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="267ba87cfb8591ed5830499574d2272a"></iframe><p>Andersen and his colleagues conducted their experiments at <a href="https://dystopia.dk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Dystopia</a> Haunted House, a commercial attraction in Vejle, Denmark constructed in an old, run-down factory. The Recreational Fear Lab has a long-standing partnership with the spook shack.</p><p>They outfitted 100 volunteers with heart monitors and sent them on their terrifying way through the 50-room horror mansion. The facility incorporates a number of fright mechanisms including frequent jump scares in which a sudden threat takes a visitor by surprise.</p><p>Researchers surreptitiously observed their participants on closed-circuit video as they made their way through the attraction. They tracked each individual's scares, scoring them for intensity according to their visible reactions. After exiting the attraction, individuals self-reported their experiences in the haunted house.</p><p>Combining these self-reports with observer notes and each participant's heart-rate data gave the researchers subjective, behavioral, and physiological insights into the ways in which fear is experienced, and when it's a good thing or not.</p>
A pair of inverted U-shapes<p>In analyzing their data, the researchers saw two separate inverted u-shape curves. One depicted participants' enjoyment based on their self-reports and observed behavior. A similar u-curve was detected in their heart rates showing that just the right amount of heartbeat acceleration is associated with fun, but too much is too much. It's the terror Goldilocks zone.</p><p>Says Andersen, "If people are not very scared, they do not enjoy the attraction as much, and the same happens if they are too scared. Instead, it seems to be the case that a 'just-right' amount of fear is central for maximizing enjoyment."</p><p>The research suggests that being scared is enjoyable when it represents just a quick minor physiological deviation from one's normal state. When it goes on too long, however, or triggers too severe a physiological change, it becomes disturbing. Game over.</p><p>Andersen notes that this is not dissimilar to the factors known to make interpersonal play enjoyable: just the right amount of uncertainty and surprise. These are, maybe not coincidentally, also the ingredients of a successful joke.</p>
A new survey also found that women executives believe imposter syndrome to be common among women in corporate America.
Am I the great pretender?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ3NzQzOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NzA2Nn0._YO27j8GmJnSeop1mPFxx_sOKg3DorgFFpcfHNYVV98/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C312%2C0%2C312&height=700" id="5201d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3474c9bcafb8198254dd798882b99551" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="diverse group meeting" />
Fake it till you make it (to the moon)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d991955b6be7f4d226a2e1572edec4f9"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/IrTrBNmMXG0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Because the original study focused on highly successful women, there's been a misconception that only women suffer from imposter syndrome and the best remedy is for them to "just get over it." Neither is true.</p><p>Regarding the gender gap, there's been much back and forth in the research. <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/men-suffer-from-impostor-syndrome-2016-1" target="_blank">Men certainly suffer</a> from imposter syndrome, and some studies have suggested men <a href="https://qz.com/1296783/it-turns-out-men-not-women-suffer-more-from-imposter-syndrome/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may be more inclined toward it</a>—at least under specific conditions. But due to social expectations and cultural norms, they may not be as open about it. Other studies have found women, especially women of color and those from the LGBTQ community, to be <a href="https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200724-why-imposter-syndrome-hits-women-and-women-of-colour-harder" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hit harder by imposter syndrome</a>.</p><p>Thankfully, for both men and women, there are ways to diminish these fraudulent feelings of phoniness. <a href="https://time.com/5312483/how-to-deal-with-impostor-syndrome/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Speaking with Time</a>, imposter syndrome expert Valerie Young recommended reframing your thoughts. We can learn to be mindful of the disruptive thought, relabeling it as a feeling and not a reality. We can learn to appreciate constructive criticism, develop growth mindsets, and push ourselves to ask questions rather than holding back out of fear. And as KPMG's study showed, having a supportive person to speak honestly with can do wonders.</p><p>"The goal is not to never feel like an impostor. The goal for me is to give [people] the tools and the insight and information to talk themselves down faster," Young told Time. "They can still have an impostor moment, but not an impostor life."</p><p>Short of pathological narcissism, I imagine we all have our imposter moments. I think <a href="https://neil-gaiman.tumblr.com/post/160603396711/hi-i-read-that-youve-dealt-with-with-impostor" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">author Neil Gaiman</a> illustrates this best in an anecdote. One night, Gaiman was chatting up a fellow Neil at a very important event filled with very important people who had done very important things. Like Gaiman, the elderly Neil felt he didn't belong in such a prestigious company. That Neil was, of course, Neil Armstrong.</p><p>As Gaiman put it so well: "And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren't any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for."</p>
Andrew Wakefield turned away from science and to the tabloids to spread his fabricated data.
- Investigative journalist Brian Deer has published a new book on anti-vaxx ringleader, Andrew Wakefield.
- Discredited in the science community, Wakefield turned to the media to share his anti-vaxx propaganda.
- The disbarred doctor fabricated results and filed for his own vaccine patents, Deer reports.
Brian Deer on the media's role in vaccine scares<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8fb353300760fa3da4cff23f5875bc51"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/P8uBzQC3Xz8?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Gershon realized the slides were likely contaminated in the laboratory. He wasn't the only one. Science has long suffered from the "<a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/12/13/the-truth-wears-off" target="_blank">replication crisis</a>"—many studies come to a conclusion that cannot be replicated upon further research. Not only did future research fail to confirm Wakefield's research, the doctor balked when his research institution, Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, offered a large sum of money to conduct a follow-up study. If Wakefield's work was sturdy, it would have held up.</p><p>Wakefield never even tried. Instead, he turned to an increasingly popular trick when your data fails: let the media do your work for you. Science is hard and expensive. Clickbait, cheap and addictive. </p><p>The actual data is mind-boggling. The 12 children in the original study were handpicked, which is antithetical to clinical research. Wakefield falsified the results from pediatricians. He used microscopic-level stains; a more reliable molecular method found nothing. The parents of study subjects, some with their own agendas (such as litigation), kept changing the timeline of their child's conditions—some children showed symptoms of autism <em>before</em> the MMR vaccine was given while others claimed symptoms started hours after injection when previous reports state that it was months. While Wakefield was raging against the vaccine, he filed for two patents on single measles shots. </p><p>After purchasing a six-bedroom house on five acres of prime Austin real estate—Wakefield moved to America to take advantage of growing anti-vaxx fervor—he realized the equation for success: "<em>Autism + vaccines = money</em>."</p><p>Every chapter drops your jaw. Consider this example to better understand the myth of vaccine-created autism. On July 20, 2005, Wakefield, with support from anti-vaxx congressman Dan Burton, spoke at the National Mall. The event was a rally against the vaccine ingredient, thimerosal, which itself is a red herring: thimerosal was removed from almost all vaccines in 1999, yet autism cases continued to rise. </p>
Dr Andrew Wakefield (C) walks with his wife Carmel after speaking to reporters at the General Medical Council (GMC) on January 28, 2010 in London, England.
Credit: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images<p>Wakefield read a statement from a UK newspaper apologizing after the former doctor brought a defamation suit. By this point, Deer had published numerous groundbreaking stories in the Sunday Times (circulation: 1.2 million). A tiny local newspaper, the Cambridge Evening News (circulation: 5,000), had reprinted two sentences from Deer's coverage. Instead of bringing Deer to court (which he would do later, unsuccessfully), Wakefield sued the fragile paper in eastern England, which did not have the resources to defend itself.</p><p>No one on the Mall that day understood the specifics. They weren't told the backstory. All they heard was that Wakefield was vindicated, for which they cheered. </p><p>Every schtick has a shelf life. Deer details the increasingly absurd stakes of Wakefield's career: measles causes Crohn's disease; the MMR vaccine causes autism; all vaccines are suspect. Over the course of two decades, the disbarred doctor chased money wherever it led, taking a willing media along with him. His efforts culminated in the 2016 pseudoscience documentary, "Vaxxed."</p><p>Actions have consequences. Andrew Wakefield saw opportunity in vaccine-resistant parents. At first, he filed for his own single-jab measles vaccine—at the time, the demon was supposedly the triple shot MMR—but he wasn't fully aware of what lurked inside of this Pandora's box. Wakefield was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to fabricate the study, as Deer's reporting shows. A long game hadn't yet been imagined. </p><p>Twenty-two years later, during the worst pandemic in a century, 35 percent of Americans claim they will not take an FDA-approved, free COVID-19 vaccine, according to a <a href="https://news.gallup.com/poll/317018/one-three-americans-not-covid-vaccine.aspx" target="_blank">Gallup poll</a>. The science community called Wakefield's research out for what it was, yet by manipulating the media—more forcefully, social media—the "doctor with no patients" has made a large percentage of people skeptical of one of the best therapeutic interventions ever devised. The cost, if and when a COVID-19 vaccine is developed, will be high. </p><p>Never say one man cannot change the world. And never think that change is always for the better.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>