Posts tagged with "Study"

Narcissistic eyebrows?

December 14, 2018

A 2018 study by researchers Miranda Giacomin and Nicholas Rule of the Psychology Department at the University of Toronto is “raising eyebrows” and prompting us to take another look at facial hair.

The researchers have determined that people can identify grandiose (or overt) narcissists by their distinctive eyebrows.

What exactly is grandiose narcissism? It is a flamboyant, assertive, and interpersonally dominant form of the well-known personality disorder. People with this type of narcissism have an inflated sense of self, are overconfident in making decisions, and don’t seem to learn from their mistakes, according to Psychology Today.

Given that grandiose narcissism is associated with aggressiveness and a tendency to exploit others, it is important to be able to identify this personality trait in others early on. But how?

Previous research has shown that narcissism can manifest itself in people’s appearance. For example, narcissists are more likely to look attractive; to groom themselves carefully; to wear clothes that are expensive, stylish, and flashy; and to have an organized and neat appearance, the report in Psychology Today explains.

Specifically,men are less likely to wear glasses. Women are apt to wear makeup, show cleavage, and pluck their eyebrows.

Previous research has concluded that people can detect grandiose narcissism even by looking at emotionally neutral faces. The present investigation—the results of which have been published in the May 2018 edition of Journal of Personality—attempted to determine what specific features of the target faces enabled people to do so.

Giacomin and Rule first examined participants’ perceptions of target faces as a whole. But participants were able to detect narcissism even in upside-down faces. The researchers then determined that the cues to identifying narcissists resided in the eye region—specifically, the eyebrows.

Using image manipulation, they confirmed their results, observing that a non-narcissist donning a narcissistic person’s brows was judged as more narcissistic, and that a narcissistic person viewed with a non-narcissist’s brows was judged as less narcissistic.

They further discovered that people considered femininity, grooming, and distinctiveness in judging the presence of narcissism in target faces. But only distinctiveness was related to accurate judgments.

Eyebrows help us express many emotions and communicate social messages—even unintentional ones. As Giacomin and Rule observe, brows “provide high-contrast lines that can reveal involuntary expressions or gestures from far away.” Among the factors that make eyebrows distinctive are their thickness and density, the researchers said.

In addition, brows can help us recognize faces, according to the Psychology Today report. For example, in one study, researchers found that the absence of eyebrows in familiar faces, such as celebrity faces, negatively impacted recognition.

Eyebrows may be particularly important to people high on the personality trait of grandiose narcissism. Why? Because they have a strong desire for admiration and recognition and, as a result, might “seek to maintain distinct eyebrows to facilitate others’ ability to notice, recognize, and remember them; thereby increasing their likability and reinforcing their overly positive self-views.”1

Finally, the eyebrows are often an unrecognized factor in mate selection. Giacomin and Rule posit that narcissists are very competitive and often successful in mate selection (mainly when it comes to acquiring short-term sexual partners)—and that their eyebrows could “signal this prowess to others.”

Research contact: miranda.giacomin@utoronto.ca

When parents are gay, the kids are okay

November 29, 2018

A study conducted by researchers from the University of Amsterdam, UCLA School of Law in Los Angeles, and Columbia University in New York City has found that the children of same-sex parents are just as healthy emotionally and physically as the children of different-sex parents, CNN reports..

Dr. Nanette Gartrell of UCLA, one of the study’s authors, told CNN that the researchers intended to provide a real population-based, apples-to-apples comparison.

It is the only study to compare same-sex and different-sex parent households with stable, continuously coupled parents and their biological offspring,” Gartrell said, noting that she and her colleagues tried to compensate for the shortcomings of previous investigations—which recruited same-sex parent families and could thus establish a certain selection bias. “It’s been a goal of ours to do a nationally representative survey in which we could do this very carefully matched study,” she said

Using the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health, provided by the National Center for Health Statistics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the researchers matched 95 same-sex female parent households to 95 different-sex parent households based on the following characteristics:

  • Parents’ age,
  • Parents’ level of education,
  • Whether parents were born in the United States,
  • Whether the child was born in the United States or elsewhere
  • Family residence (urban or rural),
  • Child’s age,
  • Child’s race, and
  • Child’s gender.

The study found that there were no differences in the children when it came to their general health, their emotional difficulties, their coping behaviors, or their learning behaviors. What the study found to be more indicative predictors of these behaviors were the relationships between the parents, the parents and the child, and parenting stressors.

The study did note that lesbian parents seem to exhibit higher levels of parenting stress, which Gartell attributed to perceived homophobia. “Parents feel pressured to justify the quality of their parenting more than their heterosexual counterparts. We also suspect and feel that more study is warranted, but the cultural spotlight on same-sex parenting may be part of the stress,” she told the news outlet.

Those who oppose same-sex parenting have pointed to studies—such as one conducted at the Catholic University of America several years ago—that have found gay parents to have a negative impact on childhood outcomes, such as lower levels of income, and poorer mental and physical health

Gartell told CNN that such studies did not compensate for the fact that they were comparing children from same-sex couples who were not continuously coupled. Rather, those studies looked at children from same-sex families who experienced family upheaval such as divorce, adoption or foster care and compared them to children from stable households with different-sex parents.

The current study only looked at lesbian households, she said, because when households were finally matched and controlled for continuous relationships, there were too few male same-sex households.

Gartrell said this is by no means the final study to be done on same-sex parenting. “We still have so much to learn and find out about different types of families,” she commented.

Research contact: ngartrell@nlfs.org

‘Sensational’ study: Coffee’s bitter taste gives drinkers a ‘buzz’

November 19, 2018

While the aroma of coffee is enticing and pleasurable, most people find the taste to be bitter. However, a study published in Scientific Reports this month—and covered in a report by NPR—has found that, the more sensitive you are to the bitter taste of coffee, the more of it you tend to drink.

A team of researchers from the Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States conducted the investigation using data stored in the UK Biobank, a major global health resource established over a decade ago by the Wellcome Trust medical charity, Medical Research Council, Department of Health, and the Scottish Government—and supported by the National Health Service..

More than 500,000 residents of England , Scotland, and Wales between the ages of 37 and 73 contributed blood, urine, and saliva samples to the Biobank between 2006 and 2010—and agreed to have their health status tracked, in order to determine which diseases and health conditions they would develop during the remainder of their lives.

The same volunteers also filled out questionnaires asking a variety of health-related questions—including how much coffee, tea, and alcohol they drank on a daily basis.

Since most of us inherit our taste preferences from our parents, the researchers used genetic analysis of samples from the Biobank to find people who were more or less sensitive to three bitter substances: caffeine, quinine (think tonic water) and a chemical called propylthiouracil that is frequently used in genetic tests of people’s ability to taste bitter compounds.

The objective was to determine whether people sensitive to one or more of these three substances drank more or less coffee than other drinkers. Surprising, NPR reports, people who exhibited greater sensitivity to caffeine reported higher coffee consumption, compared with people who did not strongly perceive the bitter taste. Strangely enough, the researchers said, “opposite relationships were observed for tea consumption.”

Conversely, those who were sensitive to quinine and propylthiouracil—neither of which is in coffee—tended to drink less coffee on a daily basis. For alcohol, a higher perceived intensity of propylthiouracil (bitterness) was associated with lower overall consumption.

How to explain these results? NPR reports that Marilyn Cornelis, assistant professor of Preventative Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and one of the study authors, says people may “learn to associate that bitter taste with the stimulation that coffee can provide.” In other words, they get hooked on the buzz.

And it turns out those who drink two or three cups a day just might live longer, too.

Research contact: @joesbigidea

Are you ‘hangry’ when you miss a meal?

October 12, 2018

Next time you feel irritable, anxious, and hungry—along with possible symptoms of trembling, weakness and dizziness—reach for a snack. Chances are, it has been several hours since your last meal and you may be “hangry”—a real condition associated with hypoglycemia.

Researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada have confirmed that being hangry is not just a social excuse; it’s a valid medical complaint—caused by the sudden drop in glucose we experience when we are feeling famished.

“We found evidence that a change in glucose level can have a lasting effect on mood,” said Professor Francesco Leri of the school’s Department of Psychology. “I was skeptical when people would tell me that they get grouchy if they don’t eat, but now I believe it. Hypoglycemia is a strong physiological and psychological stressor.

“The study examined the impact of a sudden glucose drop on emotional behavior by inducing hypoglycemia in rats.

“When people think about negative mood states and stress, they think about the psychological factors, not necessarily the metabolic factors,” said Ph.D. student Thomas Horman, who led the study. “But we found poor eating behavior can have an impact.”

The rats were injected with a glucose metabolism blocker causing them to experience hypoglycemia, and were then placed in a specific chamber. On a separate occasion, they were given an injection of water and placed in a different chamber. When given the choice of which chamber to enter, they actively avoided the chamber where they experienced hypoglycemia.

This type of avoidance behavior is an expression of stress and anxiety,” said Leri. “The animals are avoiding that chamber because they had a stressful experience there. They don’t want to experience it again.”

The researchers tested blood levels of the rats after experiencing hypoglycemia and found more corticosterone, an indicator of physiological stress.The rats also appeared more sluggish when given the glucose metabolism blocker.

“You might argue that this is because they need glucose to make their muscles work,” said Leri. “But when we gave them a commonly used antidepressant medication, the sluggish behavior was not observed. The animals moved around normally. This is interesting because their muscles still weren’t getting the glucose, yet their behavior changed.”

This finding supports the idea that the animals experienced stress and depressed mood when they were hypoglycemic, he said.

For people who experience anxiety or depression, the study results have implications for treatment, said Horman.

“The factors that lead someone to develop depression and anxiety can be different from one person to the next. Knowing that nutrition is a factor, we can include eating habits into possible treatment.”

These findings also provide insight into the connection between depression and diseases such as obesity, diabetes, bulimia and anorexia, Horman said.

Having established that hypoglycemia contributes to negative mood states, the researchers plan to determine whether chronic, long-term hypoglycemia is a risk factor for developing depression-like behaviors.

While missing one meal may make you “hangry,” Horman said, these findings suggest your mood could be impacted if meal-skipping becomes a habit.

“Poor mood and poor eating can become a vicious cycle in that if a person isn’t eating properly, they can experience a drop in mood, and this drop in mood can make them not want to eat. If someone is constantly missing meals and constantly experiencing this stressor, the response could affect their emotional state on a more constant level.”

Research contact: fleri@uoguelph.ca

Skin deep: Chemicals in cosmetics alter women’s hormone levels

September 17, 2018

It’s time to face up to the facts: The cosmetics and creams women use every day may cover their flaws and accentuate their best features, but they also can pose a critical risk. New research has established that chemicals found in many beauty products are linked to changes in hormones.

Indeed, the new research results—published in Environment International by Assistant Professor of Global and Community Health Anna Pollack, Ph.D., and colleagues at Fairfax, Virginia-based George Mason University—discovered links between chemicals that are widely used in cosmetic and personal care products and changes in reproductive hormones that can lead to serious conditions, including breast cancer and cardiovascular disease. .

For their study, the authors collected 509 urine samples from 143 healthy women between ages of 18 and 44. Participants did use birth control and had no prior history of any chronic ailments. Urine was analyzed for environmental chemicals commonly found in cosmetic and personal care products.

The authors found numerous adverse effects on reproductive hormones when these chemicals were present—especially parabens (antimicrobial preservatives) and benzophenones (ultraviolet filters). They say that even low levels of exposure to mixtures of chemicals can alter levels of hormones.

“We have early indicators that chemicals such as parabens may increase estrogen levels,” says Pollack, in a university press release. “If this finding is confirmed by additional research, it could have implications for estrogen dependent diseases such as breast cancer.”

This study is the first to examine mixtures of chemicals that are widely used in personal care products in relation to hormones in healthy, reproductive-age women, using multiple measures of exposure across the menstrual cycle, which improved upon research that relied on one or two measures of chemicals,” Pollack noted.

This multi-chemical approach more closely reflects real-world environmental exposures and shows that even low-level exposure to mixtures of chemicals may affect reproductive hormone levels. Another noteworthy finding of the study is that certain chemical and UV filters were associated with decreased reproductive hormones in multi-chemical exposures while others were associated with increases in other reproductive hormones, underscoring the complexities of these chemicals.

“What we should take away from this study is that we may need to be careful about the chemicals in the beauty and personal care products we use,” explains Pollack. “We have early indicators that chemicals such as parabens may increase estrogen levels. If this finding is confirmed by additional research, it could have implications for estrogen dependent diseases such as breast cancer.”

Research contact: apollac2@gmu.edu

A new wrinkle in cardiac research

August 28, 2018

Nobody likes wrinkles—unless they are on a Pug dog or a Sphinx cat. And even those breeds give some people the willies. But now, researchers have given us another reason to dislike these inevitable signs of aging: If they appear in certain places, they may portend health problems.

First it was earlobe creases that predicted heart disease, according to a 1973 letter published by the New England Journal of Medicine—and proven several times over by researchers. Now it’s a wrinkled forehead, based on a study conducted by Toulouse University Hospital in France.

Indeed, the European Society of Cardiology released results on August 26 of a study by Toulouse University Hospital clinicians that show that . “people who have lots of deep forehead wrinkles—more than is typical for their age may have a higher risk of dying of cardiovascular disease (CVD).”

And those risks are ten times higher than for people with smooth foreheads. The study has found that assessing brow wrinkles could be an easy, low-cost way [of identifying] people who are at high risk for a cardiac disease.

“You can’t see or feel risk factors like high cholesterol or hypertension,” says study author Yolande Esquirol, associate professor of Occupational Health at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Toulouse in France.  “We explored forehead wrinkles as a marker because it’s so simple and visual. Just looking at a person’s face could sound an alarm; then we could give advice to lower risk …. The challenge is in identifying high-risk patients early enough to make a difference.”

According to the study authors, previous research has analyzed different visible signs of ageing to see if they can presage cardiovascular disease. In prior studies, crow’s feet showed no relationship with cardiovascular risk but these tiny wrinkles near the eyes are a consequence not just of age but also of facial movement. A link has been detected between male-pattern baldness, earlobe creases, xanthelasma (pockets of cholesterol under the skin) and a higher risk of heart disease, but not with an increased risk of actually dying.

The authors of the current study investigated a different visible marker of age—horizontal forehead wrinkles—to see if they had any value in assessing cardiovascular risk in a group of 3,200 working adults.  Participants, who were all healthy and were aged 32, 42, 52 and 62 at the beginning of the study, were examined by physicians who assigned scores depending on the number and depth of wrinkles on their foreheads. A score of zero meant no wrinkles while a score of three meant “numerous deep wrinkles.”

The study participants were followed for 20 years, during which time 233 died of various causes.  Of these, 15.2% had score two and three wrinkles; 6.6% had score one wrinkles; and 2.1% had no wrinkles.

The authors found that people with wrinkle score of one had a slightly higher risk of dying of cardiovascular disease than people with no wrinkles. Those who had wrinkle scores of two and three had almost 10 times the risk of dying compared with people who had wrinkle scores of zero, after adjustments for age, gender, education, smoking status, blood pressure, heart rate, diabetes and lipid levels,

“The higher your wrinkle score, the more your cardiovascular mortality risk increases,” explains Dr Esquirol.

Furrows in your brow are not a better method of evaluating cardiovascular risk than existing methods, such as blood pressure and lipid profiles, but they could raise a red flag earlier, at a simple glance.

The researchers don’t yet know the reason for the relationship, which persisted even when factors like job strain were taken into account, but theorize that it could have to do with atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries due to plaque build-up. Atherosclerosis is a major contributor to heart attacks and other cardiovascular events.

The study was presented on August 26 at the European Society of Cardiology Congress

Research contact: @cliniquepasteur

Bloated and confused? Probiotics could be the culprit!

August 10, 2018

Probiotics—live bacteria and yeasts that purportedly are good for your digestive system and immune response—have become a multi-billion-dollar business. In 2017, the global market for pills, powders, and yogurts packed with probiotics was about $46 billion, according to Statista. By 2022, experts forecast that the “digestive health, immunity, and probiotics” category of consumer products will exceed $64 billion, according to a report in the August issue of Psychology Today.

Marketers claim that they will optimize our overall health by increasing the “good” bacteria in our guts. However, researchers increasingly are finding that, although these products are generally safe, “too much of a good thing” can have unexpected repercussions.

Specifically, findings of a study conducted by researchers at the Medical College of Georgia (published in June by the journal, Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology) indicate that probiotic use can result in a significant accumulation of bacteria in the small intestine that can result in disorienting brain fogginess as well as rapid, significant belly bloating.

Out of 38 patients who agreed to participate in the study, 30 reported problems such as confusion and difficulty concentrating, in addition to gas and bloating. All subjects were taking probiotics—some of them, several varieties.

When investigators looked further, they found large colonies of bacteria breeding in the patients’ small intestines, and high levels of D-lactic acid being produced by the bacteria lactobacillus’ fermentation of sugars in their food, says lead author Dr. Satish S.C. Rao, director of Neurogastroenterology/Motility and the Digestive Health Clinical Research Center at the college.

Indeed, D-lactic acid is known to be temporarily toxic to brain cells, interfering with cognition, thinking, and sense of time.  They found some patients had two to three times the normal amount of D-lactic acid in their blood.

According to the authors, “Brain Fogginess (BF) describes a constellation of symptoms [comprising] mental confusion, impaired judgment, poor short-term memory, and difficulty with concentration, which is often transient and disabling.” Some study participants said that their brain fogginess—which lasted from a half hour to many hours after eating—had been so severe that they had to quit their jobs.

The published report appears to be the first time the connection has been made between brain fogginess, bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, high levels of D-lactic acid in the gut, and probiotic use, Rao says. .” Notably, the researchers found that over two-thirds of patients with brain fogginess who were taking probiotics demonstrated D-lactic acidosis and a higher prevalence of small intestine bacterial overgrowth.

“What we now know is that probiotic bacteria have the unique capacity to break down sugar and produce D-lactic acid. So if you inadvertently colonize your small bowel with probiotic bacteria, then you have set the stage for potentially developing lactic acidosis and brain fogginess,” Rao says.

In some people, for reasons that are not understood, probiotics appear to cause bacterium lactobacillus to go into a feeding frenzy. This leads to the rapid fermentation of sugars, which results in the production of belly-bloating methane and hydrogen gas. According to the researchers, the excessive amounts of D-lactic acid being produced in the small intestine is absorbed into the blood and can travel to the brain—temporarily interfering with cognitive functions..

Although this study is a first step towards understanding a possible link between probiotic use and brain fogginess, more research is needed. The authors acknowledge that this pioneering research has some significant shortcomings, including a small sample size.

Many individuals randomly self prescribe over-the-counter probiotics and eat these chewables like candy. Although probiotics can be beneficial in some situations, the investigators warn consumers to avoid excessive and indiscriminate use of probiotic supplements. “Probiotics should be treated as a drug, not as a food supplement,” Rao concluded.

Research contact: mediarelations@augusta.edu