Feeling stressed can lower vaccine’s effectiveness

A person’s state of mind may influence the body’s response to a vaccine against meningitis C, suggests new research. The findings support previous research showing a link between psychological factors and antibody response to vaccines. The results of a broad survey revealed that a high level of perceived life stress, but not actual stress, was associated with low antibody levels. A low level of psychological well being – feeling anxious or under strain, for example – was also linked to low antibody levels.

Mother’s marital status, not age, linked to later depression

The age a mother first gives birth may be less relevant to her chance of later-life depression than her marital status, according to new research showing that unmarried teenage mothers and unmarried adult mothers have similar levels of depressive symptoms in their late 20s. The study also found that living in a female-headed family at age 14, living with a stepfather at age 14, having low self-esteem in mid-adolescence and having poor verbal and math skills predicted depressive symptoms in young adulthood.

Brain’s perception depends upon the source of cues, researchers find

When the human brain is presented with conflicting information about an object from different senses, it finds a remarkably efficient way to sort out the discrepancies, according to new research conducted at the University of California, Berkeley. The researchers found that when sensory cues from the hands and eyes differ from one another, the brain effectively splits the difference to produce a single mental image. The researchers describe the middle ground as a “weighted average” because in any given individual, one sense may have more influence than the other. When the discrepancy is too large, however, the brain reverts to information from a single cue – from the eyes, for instance – to make a judgment about what is true.

Hostility may be better predictor of heart disease than smoking, cholesterol

Hostility may predict heart disease more often than traditional coronary heart disease (CHD) risk factors like high cholesterol, cigarette smoking and weight, according to research reported on in the November issue of Health Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA). Using a sample of 774 older White men (average age was 60) from the Normative Aging Study, lead researcher Raymond Niaura, Ph.D., and colleagues sought to determine whether hostility was an independent influence or a contributing factor in CHD development. Hostility levels, blood lipids, fasting insulin, blood pressure, body measurement index (BMI), weight-hip ratio (WHR), diet, alcohol intake, smoking and education attainment were assessed over a three year period beginning in 1986.

Dietary vitamin E associated with sharply lower risk of Parkinson’s

Previous research has implicated oxidative damage (cell degradation) in the development of Parkinson’s disease. Because vitamins E, C and carotenoids are antioxidants, researchers recently studied the associations between their intake and risk of Parkinson’s disease. Their conclusions point not to supplements, but to dietary intake of vitamin E (from the foods we eat) as having a protective factor in the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. The study is reported in the October 22 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Hormones Important In Female Athletic Competition

A new study has found that women athletes get far more pumped up before and during athletic competition than their male counterparts. Pre-event testosterone levels rise 9 percent, on avergae, in males whereas in females they increase by 24 percent. During the game itself women increase their testosterone production by 49 percent while in males, it increases on average 15 percent. The rise in testosterone that accompanies competition is thought to make the individual more willing to take risks, improves psychomotor function and coordination, and increase cognitive performance qualities that are very important in winning.

Gene increases schizophrenia risk, study says

Scientists have discovered the first “risk gene” for schizophrenia found in the general population. An uncommon variation of a gene called Nogo, when inherited from both parents, increases the risk of developing schizophrenia, says a study to be published in Molecular Brain Research. Previous findings about other risk genes for the disease were restricted to specific ethnic groups. “Finding a risk gene in the general population – the first finding of this type internationally – opens the door to discovering new and related risk genes,” says one of the study’s authors. “Now scientists will know where to look for related genes…. This will help in diagnosis and potentially in the design of new medications for treatment of this terrible disease.”

Drug Averts Parkinson’s in Fruit Flies, New Approaches Possible in Humans

Scientists have averted the onset of neurodegenerative disease in fruit flies by administering medication to flies genetically predisposed to a disorder akin to Parkinson’s disease. The result suggests a new approach to the treatment of human disorders including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Parkinson’s disease is the second most common human neurodegenerative disorder, characterized by tremors, postural rigidity and progressive deterioration of dopaminergic neurons in specific areas of the brain. Despite the evolutionary gulf separating humans and fruit flies, neurotoxicity unfolds in a similar manner in both species.

Pre-term infants slower at processing information

Although individuals vary widely, on average, pre-term infants are markedly slower at processing information — including understanding what they see — than full-term infants. New research shows this deficit in processing speed is already present in the first year of life and the gap in performance does not narrow with age. The research is published in the November issue of Developmental Psychology, a journal of the American Psychological Association (APA).