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How virtual reality may help explore the role of fear in youth at risk for violence and crime



Behavioral disorders – often characterized by aggression, theft, vandalism, rule breaking, and lying – are one of the most common and debilitating psychiatric disorders that occur in childhood and adolescence.

There is a subset of behavioral disorders who are more prone to chronic violence and criminal behavior. These people exhibit severe behavioral and personality symptoms known as callous traits, including numbness towards others, lack of empathy or guilt for their harmful behavior, and superficial or decreased emotional expression.

Nicholas Thomson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery in the School of Medicine and the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences, has a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health of $ 2.5 million get conduct disorder study. Its aim is to shed new light on the mechanisms underlying callous-callous traits, thus enabling a more focused approach to treating young people who display these traits.

“Adolescents with behavioral disorders and callous-callous traits are more likely to have chronic criminal behavior and develop mental health problems into adulthood,” said Thomson, director of research and forensic psychologist for the Injury and Violence Prevention Program at VCU Health Trauma Center. “It is therefore beneficial to understand what contributes to the development and stability of these traits in order to guide treatment and prevention programs.”

Thomson will lead a study, entitled “Distinguishing Youth with Conduct Disorder with Callous-Unemotional Traits using Cardiovascular Psychophysiology While Virtual Reality Fear Induction: Testing for Sex Differences,” which will examine the role of fear and fearlessness in adolescents with callous-callous traits concentrated.

It has long been theorized that adolescents with callous-callous traits often do not feel fear, nor do they recognize fear in others. This fear deficit can disrupt typical social development and increase the stability and development of callous-callous features.

“Because fearlessness is associated with insensitivity to punishment, it can stunt the process of socialization, learning, and internalizing guilt and empathy,” said Thomson. “When adolescents with high levels of callous-callous traits are not afraid, they are more likely to engage in risky behaviors (ie, aggression) because they are less concerned about the consequences (ie, being hurt or punished) and less concerned about the harm it inflicts on others. “

While there is research to support this theory, Thomson says, it comes mostly from survey data, memories of past events, or non-fear-inducing scenarios such as images of fear expressions.

This new study aims to test the low fear hypothesis by precisely defining and measuring fear.

Participants will use an immersive virtual reality system while researchers measure their biological responses.

“With the support of [VCU Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research’s Endowment Fund], we developed a virtual reality fear rating battery that allows teens to have immersive, yet mild, exposure to common phobias, ”said Thomson. “For example, the young people will experience a VR roller coaster. As we experience the roller coaster, we will record parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system activity with facial treatments [electromyography]. This will give us a fuller understanding of the relationship between callous-callous traits and physiological threat sensitivity. “

While the study explores serious behavioral issues, it’s actually a pretty fun and novel experience for participants, Thomson said.

Previous research on behavioral disorders has neglected the study of women in general, Thomson said, so it is unknown whether the fearlessness theory applies to both boys and girls. The new study will try to examine gender differences if necessary.

VCU researchers James Bjork, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, will participate in the study with Thomson; Roxann Roberson-Nay, Ph.D., Associate Professor at the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics; and Scott Vrana, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Psychology; and James Blair, Ph.D., director of the Center for Neurobehavioral Research in Children at Boys Town National Research Hospital; and Kostas Fanti, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, University of Cyprus.

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NBA roundup: Kevin Love honored for efforts to destigmatize mental health issues



Cleveland Cavaliers striker Kevin Love during Wednesday’s game against the Miami Heat. Love, a five-time NBA All-Star, is honored by a Boston foundation for his work on and off the court in removing the stigma from mental health problems. Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press

BOSTON – Kevin Love knows the euphoria of sinking a threesome just before the buzzer. But the five-time NBA All-Star had plenty of lows to make up for those highs.

“There are days when I don’t want to get out of bed. That’s just the truth, “wrote the 2018 Cleveland Cavaliers power forward of his lifelong struggles with depression and low self-esteem.

On Thursday, the Boston-based Ruderman Family Foundation honored Love with its annual Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion for its work both on and off the field to eradicate the stigma of mental illness.

“Love has repeatedly taken steps to eradicate the mental health stigma by sharing stories of his struggles with depression, anxiety and other challenges,” the foundation said in a statement. He also founded the Kevin Love Fund, with the ambitious goal of helping more than 1 billion people over a five-year period.

Last year, his fund partnered with the University of California, Los Angeles to establish the Kevin Love Fund Chair in UCLA’s Psychology Department to diagnose, prevent, treat, and destigmatize anxiety and depression.

Love, 33, won an NBA championship with the Cavaliers in 2016 and was a member of the gold-medaled US national team at the 2010 FIBA ​​World Cup and the 2012 London Olympics.

He has repeatedly taken steps to eradicate the mental health stigma by telling stories of his struggles with depression, anxiety, and other challenges. In a 2018 essay for The Players’ Tribune, he revealed that he had been seeing a therapist for several months after suffering a panic attack during a game earlier this year.

The fight continues: In April, Love apologized for a fit of anger on the pitch during a game against the Toronto Raptors.

“When I first spoke about my mental health problems, it changed my life,” said Love on Thursday.

“In recent years, athletes around the world have shown us incredible courage by highlighting the psychological stress of extreme pressure. In this way, they have helped initiate a cultural shift around mental wellbeing, ”he said.

Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, said Love was chosen for his “instrumental role in destigmatizing mental health and exposing this long-overdue conversation.”

“He has served as a high-profile role model for countless people facing mental health problems who can now use his courage and determination as a guide,” said Ruderman.

BUCK: Brook Lopez, Milwaukee center, has had surgery for his back injury that has kept him from playing since the opening game of the season.

The Bucks announced that Lopez had back surgery on the same day in Los Angeles. Team officials did not provide a schedule for his potential return, but said, “Lopez will continue to be listed as out of action and updates on his rehabilitation progress will be provided accordingly.”

Lopez played 28 minutes and had eight points, five rebounds and three blocks in an opening season win over the Brooklyn Nets, but the 7-footer has not played since. The 33-year-old Center is in his fourth season with the Bucks and in his 14th season overall.

He averaged 12.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks last season while helping the Bucks win the NBA title.

Bucks officials said Robert Watkins performed the operation under the supervision of team doctor William Raasch.


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How Light Therapy Can Help With Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – Cleveland Clinic



The winter months can mean snowball fights, hot cocoa, and Christmas decorations, but they also mean less sunlight. And less sunlight can lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) now known as major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern.

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SAD is a form of depression that typically occurs in fall or winter. The lack of sunshine affects our circadian rhythm, the so-called “internal body clock”, which regulates the 24-hour cycle of biological processes in our body.

Reduced sunlight can also cause your serotonin levels to drop and melatonin levels to become unbalanced, which can play a role in your sleep patterns and mood.

For many, the use of light therapy can help treat SAD and other conditions such as depression and insomnia.

Psychologist Adam Borland, PsyD, talks about how light therapy works and how to use it at home.

What is light therapy?

Also known as phototherapy or bright light therapy, light therapy can be used to treat SAD and other diseases with artificial light. To use light therapy, you need to sit or work near a light therapy box for about 30 minutes.

“Especially in winter our body reacts to the gray, cold weather and the lack of natural sunlight,” says Dr. Borland. “Light therapy compensates for the lack of exposure that we get from natural sunlight.”

Types of light therapy

While most light boxes or other light therapy devices use full spectrum fluorescent light, there are also several types of light therapy that can provide benefits beyond treating SAD.

  1. Red. While more research is needed to see if red light therapy is effective at treating wounds, ulcers, and pain, there is some promise that it will help with fading scars and improving hair growth.
  2. Blue. In addition to helping people with SAD and depression, blue light can help with sun damage and acne as well.
  3. Green. Research shows that green light can be beneficial in migraine sufferers.

Benefits of light therapy

Helps with SAD

About 5% of adults in the United States have SAD, which tends to start in young adulthood. About 75% of people with seasonal affective disorder are women.

When you have SAD, you may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Sadness.
  • Anxiety.
  • Weight gain.
  • Lack of energy.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Irritability.

In order to increase your alertness, mood, energy and concentration most effectively and for the longest, regular use of light therapy is important. Research shows that light therapy is considered to be the best treatment for SAD.

Helps with depression

Research shows that light therapy can improve depression by helping your circadian rhythm and balancing serotonin levels.

One study shows that light therapy, both alone and with fluoxetine, an antidepressant, was effective in improving symptoms of depression.

Helps with sleep disorders

If you suffer from insomnia or circadian rhythm sleep disorders, research shows that using light therapy can help by positively affecting the levels of melatonin and serotonin in your brain.

It can also help you set up and stick to an ideal sleep schedule.

Supports the effectiveness of antidepressants

If you are taking an antidepressant, remember to use light therapy in combination with your medication.

“It helps balance and activate the serotonin in our brain,” says Dr. Borland. “So if someone is on medication and doing talk therapy, all of these things can certainly improve their mood.”

How to use light therapy

Although there are light therapy options like dawn stimulators and natural spectrum lightbulbs, the use of a light box (a flat panel device that uses full spectrum fluorescent light) is the most common in treating SAD.

If you’re interested in a lightbox, there are plenty of affordable options out there. But Dr. Borland says you should do your homework and look for one that provides 2,500 to 10,000 lux of output (a way to measure light brightness).

Here’s the best way to use your lightbox:

  • Use a timer. Dr. Borland says the time it takes to use your light box will vary from person to person, but most people tend to use it for 30 minutes a day. “The nice thing is that most light boxes have a timer,” he says.
  • Use it in the morning. Try to use it as early as possible in the day, says Dr. Borland. Use at night can have negative effects.
  • Don’t look straight into the light. Place your lightbox on the side of your desk or table. “Only use it as a passive light source and don’t look directly into it,” says Dr. Borland.

Dr. Borland cautions you not to speak to your doctor before starting light therapy. It may not be the best option for people with vision problems, people taking certain medications like anti-inflammatories or antibiotics, people who are photosensitive, and people with bipolar disorder.

Headache, blurred vision, fatigue, and eye strain may also occur when using light therapy. If symptoms worsen, call your doctor.

But with its affordable price and small, practical size, using a light box can be beneficial.

“Be open-minded,” says Dr. Borland. “This is something that can be used in addition to medication, talk therapy, exercise, and socializing – all those things that are important in life.”

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Editorial: Students call for empathy with mental health issues



The COVID-19 pandemic affected the way we all deal with mental health. To be separated from friends and loved ones, and to remain isolated for your own physical health and that of others, has been incredibly difficult for everyone. Many students have family members dying or watching as they struggle with COVID-19.

Anxiety and depression grew in terrifying numbers, and we had to find out the hard way the importance of taking care of yourself and, most importantly, prioritizing mental health. Students struggled to keep their studies going through online courses and work; many students had to combine their homework with their schoolwork or had difficulties accessing the internet or a laptop. Some professors understood this and were lenient with attendance and class work. When the hybrid classes stopped and fully face-to-face classes began, the professors and administration seemed to think we could go back to normal just like that. It was ridiculous and an oversight by the members of the community to believe that there would be no transition period when students needed more empathy and support than ever before.

College has always been associated with stress and anxiety for students, but throw in the remnants of the pandemic trauma and the fact that we are still in a pandemic and college students are facing a new type of stress that college earlier did -Generations have never faced before. The forbearance should not have disappeared with the return to classroom teaching. IIf anything, this is the time for expansion and compassion. Students have and continue to struggle with their mental health. There should be a university-wide focusin an effort to impart and expand resources to all students. All professors should have similar views or treat their students similarly. It is not helpful for a student struggling with mental illness to be lenient and prolonged in one class but fail and fall behind in another because the two professors have different standards and understandings of it, what the student needs from them. To be successful, and to be successful, students need to feel supported and have confirmed her psychological concerns. College didn’t make it this semester, and that’s unacceptable. This semester should have focused on making the transition easier, but just because this semester couldn’t offer that to students doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be any changes for the next semester. The pandemic has shown the importance of focusing primarily on mental health. There must be a balance for students to be successful. There should be a common understanding or procedure that all professors can follow with students asking for help. If a professor cannot personally sympathize with the student, this should not hinder the ability to help the student. Student accessibility services should consider restructuring to make the process simpler for special circumstances and more open to all. Students can no longer feel alone with their mental health problems; it’s just no longer acceptable.

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